Reward upped to $10K in whooping crane shooting

By JANET McCONNAUGHEY

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — With leads scarce about whoever shot an endangered whooping crane in April, the reward for information leading to the killer’s conviction has been more than tripled to $10,000, state officials said Wednesday.

The additional $7,000 was raised from a number of donors, including an 80-year-old retiree from the New Orleans suburb of Norco, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said.

“I’ve been interested in whooping cranes since the 8th grade,” John Perilloux said. “That’s quite a long time ago. We learned in our civics class in that grade that there were only 16 of them left alive in the world. I’ve been interested in them since and trying to get their numbers back.”

There are now about 600 of the graceful white birds with red caps, black masks, and black tips at the end of their wide wings. About 400 are in the wild. The only self-sustaining flock is about 250 birds that migrate between Texas and Canada; another 100 are in a flock taught to migrate between Wisconsin and Florida by following ultralight airplanes.

Forty birds have been released in Louisiana since 2011 in an attempt to establish a flock where the 5-foot-tall birds last lived in 1939. Twenty-five are still alive. The 3-year-old female killed in April was among the first 10 released; only one of that group survives.

Perilloux said he offered the money in mid-May, after reading that state and federal authorities were offering up to $3,000 for a lead bringing the arrest and conviction of whoever shot the crane in Red River Parish, about 170 miles north of White Lake, where the birds are released.

“I said, ‘$3,000 is not enough to get somebody to come out and inform.’ So I offered another thousand in the hope that would get published quickly and maybe persuade other people to donate, too,” Perilloux said Wednesday.

Told the reward now totals $10,000, he said, “That’s great! That might get somebody to come out.”

He also said he hopes more people donate. He’s given money in the past to the flock that migrates between Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas and to Operation Migration, which provides the ultralight training.

The original $3,000 came in equal shares from the state wildlife department’s Operation Game Thief program, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust added $5,000, an anonymous donor and the Audubon Nature Institute gave $250 each and the International Crane Foundation gave $500 — part of the $85,000 restitution a South Dakota man was ordered to pay in February for killing a whooping crane in April 2012.

Perilloux said he never saw Josephine, the whooping crane that produced 52 eggs and four surviving chicks at the Audubon Zoo before her 1965 death in the aftermath of Hurricane Betsy, but has seen the non-breeding pair now at the zoo. He hopes to travel to southwest Louisiana to see birds in the new flock later this year.

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