Kachemak Crane Watch has offered a $1,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who shot an adult sandhill crane with a bow and arrow in the Garden Park Drive area last week. The reward increased from $500 in a matter of hours last Friday after word spread to crane lovers of the shooting and anonymous donors put up more money.
"Any help that the public can be, anyone who has information, can contact us and remain anonymous," said Alaska Wildlife Trooper David Chaffin of the Anchor Point Post. Tips can be called to the post at 235-8239 or to Crime Stoppers at (800) 283-8477.
A Homer woman driving with her children and a friend's daughter after picking them up from a sleepover reported the dead crane about 10 a.m. last Thursday, May 31.
Ann Anderson said her daughter, Brita, age 10, first saw the crane with an arrow in it on the side of Garden Park Drive heading toward Eagle View Road and West Hill Road at the edge of and inside Homer city limits. Anderson said a green arrow with yellow feathers and a red nock had been shot through the crane's chest. The crane had died some time before and was already stiff with rigor mortis, she said.
"It was fairly disturbing," Anderson said. "The minute the girls saw the dead crane, they started crying."
Driving to the sleepover the night before, Brita said she had seen a sandhill crane that appeared to have trouble flying in the same area. The crane made calls and its calls were answered by another sandhill crane, she said.
"It looked very stressed," Brita said.
Anderson reported the dead crane to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, who then told her to call Alaska Wildlife Troopers. Trooper Chaffin responded. Chaffin said the arrow was a fine-point hunting arrow, the kind used to hunt small game. The arrow entered near the crane's back left side and came out under the crane's breast. Chaffin collected the arrow and dead bird. Chaffin canvassed the area and did not see other animals shot at or hear of reports in the area of other animals injured or taken.
Chaffin did not see other cranes near the dead crane and did not know if it was part of a mated pair. Kachemak Bay cranes raise their young, called colts, over the summer, and generally leave Homer in mid- to late September.
Sandhill cranes can be legally hunted on the Kenai Peninsula starting Sept. 1. However, the discharge of firearms and all hunting, including with bow and arrow, is prohibited in Homer city limits. Chaffin said that if the suspect in the shooting is identified, under state laws he or she could be charged with hunting out of season, using illegal methods and waste of game for not salvaging the meat. Hunting out of season is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. If the suspect is a juvenile, the charges would be referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice.
Anderson said she hopes publicity about the killed sandhill crane leads to awareness among children and others who might shoot at sandhill cranes.
"I hope that if nothing else, people teach their kids this is not a target and it doesn't happen again," Anderson said.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.