MO: Hunters illegally kill rare swans
Hunters need to take responsibility
Killing of rare trumpeter swans shows need for outdoorsmen to be informed
by Jeff Leonard Friday, January 23, 2009
With all the media coverage centering around the presidential
inauguration this week, many might not have noticed the article circulating
throughout the nation about several men in Boone County, Mo., who apparently
killed not one but five rare trumpeter swans.
According to a Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) press release,
eight trumpeter swans arrived at the Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area in
southern Boone County (near Columbia) on the night of Dec. 29.
The following morning, an unknown number of guys hunting snow geese
allegedly failed to identify their targets and killed five of the swans.
After being caught, the violators apparently told conservation agents they
"mistook" them for snow geese.
What's odd about this particular incident and the hunters' explanation
about their case of mistaken identity was the fact that conservation agents
were immediately notified of the incident by law-abiding waterfowl hunters
who were nearby and witnessed the shootings. They readily identified the
birds as trumpeter swans.
For those who may not be familiar with trumpeter swans, or snow geese for
that matter, both birds are predominately white, but that's where the
similarities end. Trumpeters, like other swans, have a very long neck
relative to their body size and the feathers of adults are all white.
Trumpeters are the largest native birds in North America with wing spans
approaching 8 feet. They average 55 to 65 inches in length and tip the
scales at around 20 to 25 pounds. The birds fly with their long necks
outstretched. They also have black bills and black legs and feet.
Compare this to snow geese during their white phase (snow geese go
through different color phases), which have easily recognizable black wing
feathers and much shorter necks. Snow geese also have pink-colored legs and
Snow geese are also significantly smaller than swans, averaging only 29
to 31 inches in length and tipping the scales at a mere 6 1/2 to 7 1/2
pounds. The wingspan of an average snow goose is nearly 3 feet less than a
trumpeter swan. The two different waterfowl species should have been easily
distinquished, especially within shotgun range.
Jim D. Wilson, an ornithologist with conservation department, said it
best in a press release in November of 1997 when he said "People who shoot
trumpeter swans sometimes do it out of uncaring or malice." He went on to
say that the number of trumpeter swans mistakenly killed by hunters is very
"Killing one is an act of vandalism, really," he said.
In one morning, whether intentionally or unintentionally, these men
killed five beautiful, rare birds and placed themselves in dire legal
circumstances with the possibility of jail time and heavy fines. Worst of
all, these men gave sportsmen and conservationists from Missouri and the
entire country a black eye.
Not properly identifying your target before taking a shot goes against
everything responsible hunters strive for while afield. This is especially
true when hunting waterfowl and should never be an excuse for any accident
of this kind.
As sportsmen, we owe it to ourselves, the future of hunting and the game
we pursue to have a thorough knowledge of all aspects of the hunt before we
head afield. We also need the restraint to apply this knowledge and not get
caught up in the moment.
Like the responsible hunters who did the right thing and notified
conservation agents of this incident, we should all strive to police
ourselves from within. The very future of the sport may depend on it.
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