Two federally endangered Whooping Cranes were found dead in a rural area about 18 miles west of Beaumont, Jefferson County, Texas on January 11, 2016. Federal game officials arrested 18-year-old Trey Joseph Frederick after witnesses reported having seen Frederick in the area with a hunting rifle claiming to have been hunting geese. Federal agents contacted Frederick at his home where he admitted to killing the cranes. Whooping Cranes are migratory birds and are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act making it unlawful to capture, kill, or attempt to capture or kill these birds anywhere in the United States.
Frederick was charged on January 14 with illegally shooting and killing the cranes. If convicted of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act violation, he could be sentenced to up to six months in federal prison and fined as much as $15,000.
“…All hunters are spoon fed Whooper 101 in Hunters Education. Regardless, all hunters are responsible for the consequences of pulling the trigger. If it is too dark, too foggy, or you just don’t know what you are shooting at – don’t pull the trigger. It’s as simple as that.…The kid may be young but he is avid and experienced duck and goose hunter; born and raised in an area where everyone knows Whoopers are critically endangered…”
Although originally released in Louisiana at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WLWCA) near Gueydan, the two Whooping Cranes, along with two other birds from Louisiana, had been in southeast Texas for more than eight months. Part of an experimental reintroduction effort (by LDWF, USFWS, USGS, and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit), the deaths of the two-year old male and female Whooping Cranes has reduced the Louisiana group to 44 birds in the wild. Read more about the Louisiana Whoopers here.
The deaths of the cranes are being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Whooping Cranes are considered a critically endangered species and protected under the federal Endangered Species and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts, and by Texas and Louisiana state law.
Anyone encountering a whooping crane is advised to observe the bird from a distance and to report their sighting to Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) here: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/webform/whooping-crane-reporting-form
Anyone witnessing suspicious activity involving whooping cranes is advised to report that information to LDWF’s Enforcement Division by calling 1-800-442-2511 or using the tip411 program, which may offer a cash reward for information leading to arrests or convictions. To use the tip411 program, citizens can text LADWF and their tip to 847411 or download the “LADWF Tips” iPhone app from the Apple iTunes store free of charge. Citizen Observer, the tip411 provider, uses technology that removes all identifying information before LDWF receives the text so that LDWF cannot identify the sender.
For more information on this case, contact the Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office at 409-981-7902.