CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A Dallas man has pleaded guilty and was sentenced for killing a whooping crane.
Worthey D. Wiles III 42, was a guest hunter Jan. 12 at the St. Charles Bay Hunting Club in Rockport which is located inside the designated critical habitat for whooping cranes, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. While hunting in the marsh adjacent to San Jose Island, Wiles shot and killed a juvenile whooping crane. After contacting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Wiles told state game wardens he thought the whooping crane was a sandhill crane, according to the release. Wardens then contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which located the bird and verified it was a whooping crane.
Sandhill crane hunting is closed in the area where Wiles was hunting, precisely because the cranes look similar to whoopers.
Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in the world with a population of approximately 437 cranes in the wild and 599 overall. The juvenile whooper killed by Wiles is believed to have been one of only 34 juveniles that migrated 2,500 miles from Canada during the fall to Port Aransas. The whooping crane population that winters in Texas is the only self-sustaining wild population of whooping cranes in the world. This case is only the fifth known shooting death of a whooping crane since 1968.
Wiles entered a plea of guilty to one count of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which provides protection for Migratory Birds, according to the release. As a result, he was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and make a $10,000 community service payment to the nonprofit organization Friends of Aransas and Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuges. He also will serve a one-year-term of probation for his conviction.
A South Dakota man was sentenced in February to two years of probation and ordered to pay $85,000 for killing a whooping crane in April 2012.
Jeff Blachford, 26, of Miller, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Federal Endangered Species Act.
Blachford was ordered to forfeit the gun he used to kill the whooping crane and was stripped of hunting, fishing and trapping privileges in the United States for two years.