The international crane community was outraged upon hearing two endangered whooping cranes were shot and killed after making their migratory trip to their winter home in Nome, Texas.
The United States Attorney’s Office confirmed that 18-year-old Trey Joseph Frederick was arrested on Jan. 14 and charged with violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which the whoopers are protected under. He faced his first court appearance that day.
“This is devastating and unacceptable. Of just 600 whooping cranes in the world, two are gone in an instant because of what appears to be a cowardly act of violence. Whooping cranes face enough challenges to survival without senseless vandalism,” said Dr. Elizabeth Smith, Texas Program Director for the International Crane Foundation, in a press release.
It’s believed the deceased cranes are part of a sedge of 44 birds based in Louisiana, managed by several wildlife organizations working together to establish a new, self-sustaining population.
In the 1940s, numbers of the large bird dipped below 20 individuals. Rehabilitation efforts from organizations both north and south of the border – including Wood Buffalo National Park, where some populations set their nesting grounds – have increased those numbers to about 600 birds as of this year.
“Needlessly and inexplicably, there are two less whooping cranes in the world today. Our sadness is matched only by our resolve,” Smith said. “We are calling on citizens to take action to help raise awareness to prevent future shootings by joining the national campaign to protect whooping cranes.”
If convicted, Frederick could face up to six months in federal prison and fines up to $15,000.
In court, he was told he is not allowed to hunt or fish until his arraignment on Jan. 25.
The case is being investigated by special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Office of Law Enforcement and Game Wardens with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
“Over the past five years, more than 20 whooping cranes have been shot and killed in the United States,” Smith said. “It’s high time that this preventable threat comes to an end. It’s going to take all of us working together to make it crystal clear that this senseless violence just won’t stand. My hope is that citizens use this tragedy as a reason to join the campaign to protect whooping cranes.”