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Archive for Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hunters charged in whooping crane deaths

September 22, 2005

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— Seven men were charged Wednesday with shooting two whooping cranes, an incident that sparked unsuccessful efforts to halt the state's sandhill crane hunting season.

The shooting allegedly took place Nov. 6, 2004, during a hunting trip in Stafford County. Farmers found the two whooping cranes the first day of sandhill crane hunting season in a field southeast of Great Bend. Both birds later died.

"The complaint we filed in U.S. District Court in Wichita accuses the hunters of violating a federal law that prohibits the hunting or killing of migratory birds, including the whooping crane," U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren said in a news release.

Whooping cranes pass through Kansas during their fall migration from Canada to Texas.

Named in the charge were Michael L. Burke, 33, Great Bend; Chad M. Churchill, 34, Ellinwood; Kim Churchill, 53, Ellinwood; Scott L. Hjetland, 33, Chase; Ronald Laudick, 50, Hudson; Mark S. Ricker, 33, Raymond; and Lonnie J. Winkleman, 33, Lyons.

The men will not be arrested, but will be issued a summons to appear in court Sept. 30.

The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor charge is six months in prison and a $15,000 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The deaths of the whooping cranes led bird enthusiasts to seek changes to Kansas' sandhill crane hunting season earlier this year. The state still has a sandhill crane season, which runs this year from Nov. 9 to Jan. 5.

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