Diane Schilling was on the phone with a friend Monday morning when she heard popping sounds coming from outside her home.
Schilling was devastated when she realized that the two older teen males that had stopped near her home, about a mile south of the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds on County Road 45, were shooting at the pair of sandhill cranes and their chick that make their summer home in her field.
The pair of sandhill cranes and one of their chicks - as seen in 2004 - that spent their summers near Diane Schilling's home south of Brainerd. One of the adults was shot and killed Monday. The DNR are seeking information on the young men who shot the protected bird.
Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
The sandhill cranes, a protected bird, have returned each summer for the past 10 years to the Schilling's field, where the cranes raised their young.
Schilling's son Jacob took off on his all-terrain vehicle in search of the cranes when the family realized that one had been shot. He found one of the adults injured in the woods.
DNR conservation officer Jim Tischler responded to the call and took the injured crane to Dr. Deb Eskedahl, veterinarian at the Garrison Animal Hospital. Sadly, the crane's hip socket had been shattered and there was no possibility it could walk again so it was euthanized Tuesday.
The DNR is now searching for the two young men, who were driving an older model white sedan, who shot the crane just before 9 a.m. Monday.
"They're beautiful, they're just like part of our family. They just killed part of our family," said Schilling. "They have no morals or conscience to do something like this."
Sandhill cranes are not endangered but are a protected species and mate for life. Their reproductive success isn't very high, usually producing one chick a year.
See CRANES, Page 4A
Schilling said the pair that spends the summer in her field had twins one summer, which was fun to see.
Eskedahl, who cares for many injured and orphaned wildlife through the Wild and Free program, said it's been about two years since her animal clinic has cared for a sandhill crane.
"They are such a magnificent bird, it's sad to see this happen, especially when it's a mated pair that shows back up at the same area for several years in a row," said Eskedahl.
Tischler asked for the public's help in finding the young men who shot the crane. Killing a protected bird is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum penalty of up to $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
"The person or persons who did this, they're not hunters, they're not sportsmen, they are strictly cowardly wildlife killers. This had nothing to do with sportsmanship," said Tischler. "I would call them cowards to their face if they would 'fess up to it."
Tischler asked that anyone with information on the crane shooting make an anonymous call to the Turn In Poachers hotline at 1-800-652-9093. If possible, please reference the case No. 10000557.
"These guys are cowards. This is a dastardly act," said Tischler. "There's no reason for someone to stop and shoot on anyone's private property, particularly on an animal with no hunting season on it."
Tischler said the Turn In Poachers organization is interested in using the sandhill crane for its awareness campaigns. Tischler is looking for a taxidermist who would be willing to donate his or her time to mount the bird, which would then be used as part of the Turn In Poachers "Wall of Shame," a traveling display that is shown around the state at sportsmen shows and county fairs.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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