Game Warden Chronicles: Pair Cited for Killing Trumpeter Swans

In the latest game warden chronicles, two brothers were cited for killing trumpeter swans on the opening day of Michigan's waterfowl season.

Game Warden Chronicles: Pair Cited for Killing Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter swans are not legal to hunt in Michigan, where two men were cited for killing two swans. (Photo: Karl Heil/USFWS)

Ever hear about a crazy arrest by game wardens and wonder why someone did what they did?

Game warden reports from state conservation departments always are a source for a few laughs and head-scratching moments. Take a look at some of these selections from around the country.

From the Michigan DNR:

A complaint called in to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Report All Poaching hotline resulted in two brothers being ticketed for illegally killing a pair of trumpeter swans on Sept. 28 —  the opening day of waterfowl hunting season in the Upper Peninsula.

Trumpeter swans are state and federally protected waterfowl, meaning they are illegal to hunt. Conservation Officer Cody Smith, who patrols Baraga County, was on waterfowl patrol when the tip was called in to the RAP hotline.

“I received a complaint that someone had shot multiple swans in the Sturgeon River sloughs,” Smith said.

Smith contacted his partner, Conservation Officer Doug Hermanson, who patrols Houghton County, to assist. The two conservation officers met at the Sturgeon River Sloughs Wildlife Area, located south of Chassell along U.S. 41.

Several groups of waterfowl hunters were in the area. Smith and Hermanson surveyed the area and identified the suspects reported to the RAP dispatcher — two brothers in their late 20s, from Houghton.

Smith and Hermanson conducted a routine waterfowl check and found one of the hunters in possession of lead shot. Lead shot is toxic when ingested and is illegal to use for hunting waterfowl.

“We asked the hunters if they had seen any geese, which they said they had not,” Smith said. “We spoke to them for a little bit and told them about the RAP complaint.”

Upon asking the hunters where the swans were, the brothers confessed they killed two trumpeter swans and stashed the birds where they dropped. Smith and Hermanson retrieved the swans and issued the poachers tickets for killing two trumpeter swans and possession of lead shot while waterfowl hunting.

Taking illegal waterfowl is a misdemeanor offense and may be punishable with up to 90 days in jail and/or up to $500 for reimbursement, in addition to other court costs.

The trumpeter swans poached in this incident are being retained by the DNR as evidence in the case. Afterward, they will be put to use in one of several ways, including research or public education.

Two Cited for Shooting Bald Eagle

Also from the Michigan DNR:

A 2-year-old female eagle was shot by waterfowl hunters Oct. 5 in Manistee, Michigan, with two men cited after admitting the act to state conservation officers.

Conservation Officers Steve Converse and Joseph Myers found the eagle after it had been shot and transported it to Wings of Wonder, a raptor education, rehabilitation and research facility in Leelanau County. Staff there evaluated the eagle, determined it would not be able to survive surgery, and euthanized it Monday afternoon.

“The pellets caused multiple fractures in both of her wings, some of which had completely shattered some of the bones,” said Rebecca Lessard, Wings of Wonder executive director. “There was just too much damage; she was not a surgical candidate.”

Local fishing guides witnessed the incident. The two men, ages 53 and 24, both from New Boston, located southwest of Detroit, shot the eagle in a wooded area near the Bear Creek access site on the Manistee River in Brown Township. The guides immediately reported the incident to the DNR Report All Poaching hotline around 8:40 a.m. Saturday.

The two guides said that they saw the eagle flying, heard a gunshot and then saw the eagle fall. The guides reported seeing the two men who shot the eagle, about 100 yards away, picking up decoys. One of the guides approached one of the suspects and was able to get his identification. The suspect reportedly said they knew they had “messed up.”

Converse received the call from the RAP dispatcher and requested assistance from Myers and the Manistee County Sheriff’s Office. Myers and sheriff’s deputies were the first to arrive at the access site and were able to contact the two suspects as they were attempting to leave.

Converse and Myers obtained full confessions from the men.

“They said they saw the bird coming across the sun and thought it was a goose,” Converse said. “After they shot it, they realized it wasn’t a goose. When they walked away, they knew it was still alive but claimed they had no phone service so they couldn’t call to report the eagle.”

One of the river guides escorted Converse and Myers about 1 1/2 miles downriver from the access site to where the guides believed the eagle went down. The officers hiked about 150 yards up a hill, where they found the eagle crawling on the ground just east of the intersection of Kettner and River roads. One of the sheriff’s deputies provided a dog crate to transport the eagle to Wings of Wonder.

Two Bits! Four Bits! Six Bits, a Game Warden!

From the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department:

While on the way to patrol the San Jacinto River, a Montgomery County game warden observed a vehicle driving erratically toward a bridge near the river. The vehicle voluntarily pulled into the same area beside the road as the warden.

After approaching the vehicle, the warden noticed several beer cans in the passenger’s side floor board. The driver, who was the only occupant in the vehicle, denied drinking the ice-cold beer. The warden began a field sobriety test and when instructed for the hand coordination test, the driver began doing a high school cheer.

When asked to do the breathalyzer to prove they hadn’t been drinking, the driver refused. When asked why they wouldn’t do it, the driver said, “because I would be way over.” They were placed under arrest for Driving While Intoxicated, a charge the driver had previously been convicted for.

That's Quite a Meth of Fish!

From the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department:

Four game wardens apprehended a group of individuals who were taking fish from the Navasota River with an illegal electricity-producing device. The group had five flathead catfish in their possession, which were released back into the river.

In addition to that violation, the group was in possession of drug paraphernalia, 3 grams of methamphetamine, an illegally possessed firearm and a truck that had been reported stolen. Several water safety violations were also noted. Violation categories ranged from Class C misdemeanor to 3rd degree felony.

All violators were taken to the Leon County Jail.

International Trafficker Sentenced to Prison

An Irish national who was extradited to the United States in August pleaded guilty and was sentenced Oct. 1 for his role in trafficking a libation cup made from the horn of a protected rhinoceros.

After entering his guilty plea in Miami, U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Sheridan to a term of 14 months in prison and two years of supervised release.

On Aug. 29, 2019, Richard Sheridan, 50, an Irish national from Cottenham, Cambridge, United Kingdom, was arraigned in federal court in Miami, Florida, on a May 15, 2014, indictment that charged Sheridan and Michael Hegarty, also an Irish national, with conspiracy to traffic in a libation cup made from the horn of protected rhinoceros.

In addition to the conspiracy, the indictment charged Sheridan with smuggling a libation cup made from the horn of protected rhinoceros out of the United States. According to the indictment and a Joint Factual Statement signed by the parties, in 2012, Sheridan and Hegarty purchased a rhinoceros horn libation cup from an auction house in Rockingham, North Carolina, and smuggled the cup out of the United States.

“Sheridan conspired to profit from the demise of one of the world’s most endangered species,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will continue to work with our international partners to fight the trade in protected and endangered species, and organized criminal enterprises associated with it.”

Following his extradition to the United States from Belgium, Hegarty pleaded guilty to conspiring with Sheridan to traffic in the libation cup. In November 2017, Hegarty was sentenced in federal court in Miami to 18 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement investigated the case. Southern District of Florida Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Watts-FitzGerald and Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section are prosecuting the case with assistance from the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs.


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