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Shooter of Two Endangered Whooping Cranes Sentenced to Restitution, Loss of Hunting License
Beaumont, Texas (Oct. 25, 2016) – In an unprecedented decision, Federal District Court Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn handed down a heavy sentence for Trey Joseph Frederick, a 19-year-old Beaumont man who admitted to shooting and killing two endangered Whooping Cranes. The International Crane Foundation (ICF), a nonprofit organization working on behalf of Whooping Cranes internationally, assisted in the case and hopes this decision will be a sobering reminder that these animals desperately need protection. As of today, only 450 of the rare birds exist in the wild across North America.
Frederick’s sentence includes:
• $25,850 in restitution to be shared among Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the International Crane Foundation
• 200 hours of community service (the most ever ordered by this court. This time is to be spent with Texas Parks and Wildlife and/or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
• The maximum of five years probation
• An order that Frederick turn over all firearms
• The rescinding of Frederick’s hunting license for the next five years in all states
“This ruling has set a powerful precedent for the future of Whooping Crane conservation,” said Rich Beilfuss, President and CEO of the ICF. “This was not hunting. This was an act of criminal vandalism, and we are encouraged that Judge Hawthorn treated it as such. We hope the decision will be a strong deterrent to anyone considering a similar crime.”
While ICF is encouraged by the overall ruling, the nonprofit is disappointed that Judge Hawthorn did not require a higher restitution amount. ICF previously recommended a fine of $113,886 per bird, based on the cost of raising a Whooping Crane in human care and reintroducing it into the wild in Louisiana, where the birds originated. The U.S. Probation Office supported this assessment and recommended the amount to the Judge as well.
“The shooter did not just illegally kill two birds; he stole an intensive monetary investment by federal and state governments and nonprofit organizations in the United States and Canada, as well as, saddened and outraged the public through this thoughtless and brazen act,” wrote Liz Smith, Texas Program Director of the International Crane Foundation, in the letter to Judge Hawthorn.
Despite the reduced amount, ICF looks forward to sharing the ordered restitution and working alongside Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation in the future on Whooping Crane conservation efforts.
Aside from working to secure coastal habitats for Whooping Cranes in Texas, and rearing cranes for release in Louisiana and Wisconsin, ICF and its conservation partners are engaging local communities and encouraging involvement in protecting this iconic species.
“Protecting a species like Whooping Cranes takes commitment and support from the community, and we hope people recognize that if we can’t save Whooping Cranes, we all lose,” said Beilfuss.
Whooping Cranes are one of the rarest birds in North America, currently numbering about 450 in the wild. Unregulated hunting and habitat loss forced Whooping Cranes to the brink of extinction. Through painstaking efforts by ICF and others, they are making a slow, yet steady comeback from a low of only 21 individuals in the wild in 1944. Whooping Crane recovery is a symbol of hope for all endangered species.
About the International Crane Foundation
The International Crane Foundation plays a leading role in the conservation of Whooping Cranes, from managed breeding and release programs to habitat protection, citizen education and engagement, and threat reduction along their flyways. Learn more about the International Crane Foundation and its work to protect Endangered Whooping Cranes at www.savingcranes.org.