Matthew Kent Larsen, 28, of New London, pleaded guilty to killing a protected whooping crane in Waupaca County.
He appeared in United States Magistrate Court in Green Bay on a charge of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Larsen was sentenced to pay a $500 Migratory Bird Treaty Act fine and $1,500 in restitution to the International Crane Foundation. Larsen’s hunting and fishing rights were revoked nationwide for two years.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the case dates back to July 21, 2013. Researchers with the International Crane Foundation based in Baraboo, Wisconsin found the radio-tagged whooping crane dead in a Waupaca County wheat field.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory confirmed that the crane had been shot and killed with a .22-caliber bullet.
A special agent from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked with local conservation Warden Ted Dremmel on the investigation.
During the investigation, they interviewed Larsen who confessed and signed a written statement detailing how he had shot and killed the whopping crane.
According to the press release, “Larsen explained that he was on his family property in rural Waupaca County when he saw what he believed to be an albino sandhill crane standing in a wheat field on the neighboring property,” according to a Wildlife Service press release.
Larsen said he left the property, borrowed a .22-caliber scoped rifle from a friend, and returned a short time later and shot the crane.
“Larsen was remorseful about his actions and realized too late that he made a grave mistake,” said Conservation Warden Theodore Dremel.
“With Wisconsin being the home of the reintroduction effort for whooping cranes, it’s a point of pride that folks take the time to better understand these amazing birds.”
Larsen said he texted a friend to tell him he had just shot an albino sandhill crane. When the friend told Larsen that he had just killed an endangered whooping crane Larson left the area.
Larsen said he would not have shot the bird had he known it was a whooping crane.
“Regardless of whether Larsen thought he was shooting a sandhill crane or a whooping crane, they are both federally protected and neither can be legally hunted in Wisconsin,” noted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Resident Agent in Charge Pat Lund, supervisor for Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Missouri.
“Incidents like this undermine the work of a huge network of conservationists who have worked for decades to bring whooping cranes back from the brink of extinction,” Lund said.
Any harm to whooping cranes would be considered harassment under the Endangered Species Act. Anyone experiencing damage of their crops by wildlife, should contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Service Program at 608-837-2727.