Ville Platte man is sentenced to probation for killing whooping crane
A Louisiana man has been sentenced to probation for killing one of the state’s oldest whooping cranes .
Gilvin P. Aucoin Jr., of Ville Platte, shot the endangered whooping crane in July 2018 in Evangeline Parish. In a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carol B. Whitehurst, Aucoin changed his plea to guilty for a misdemeanor violation of the International Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Whitehurst sentenced Aucoin to two years’ probation, during which time he cannot hunt or fish, and 120 hours community service to be served with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Aucoin, 53, also must complete a hunter education course.
International Crane Foundation President and CEO Rich Beilfuss, in a statement, said his group was concerned that “soft penalties like this ... send the wrong message and do not serve as a deterrent to future shootings of whooping cranes or other threatened species.”
Whooping cranes are among the world’s most endangered birds. About 850 are alive, with about 660 of them in the wild. Nearly all of Louisiana’s birds, like the one killed in 2018, were raised by people in crane costumes so the birds will stay wary of humans.
Rearing, releasing and monitoring one crane in Louisiana costs $93,700, said Lizzie Condon, whooping crane outreach coordinator for the International Crane Foundation.
She said more of the 5-foot-tall (1.5-meter-tall) cranes have been killed in Louisiana than in any other state or province, and the foundation had hoped for a sentence that would deter further killings.
Aucoin’s attorney, federal public defender James Klock, did not respond to an email requesting comment.
Whooping cranes are North America’s tallest birds, and their black-tipped wings span nearly 7 feet (2.1 meters). Overhunting and habitat loss cut their numbers to 21 in the 1940s, about 15 of them in a flock that migrates between southeastern Texas and Calgary, Canada. That flock — the only self-sustaining one — now numbers about 500.
Condon said nine whooping cranes have been shot and killed in Louisiana since 2011, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries began trying to build a flock in the southwestern part of the state.
“I wish I understood why people shoot whooping cranes,” she said. She said some probably are not hunters but people who use wildlife as target practice.