Swans shot; culprits wanted

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2003

Wildlife enforcement officers are looking for anyone with information about a violation of the migratory bird treaty act that occurred near Sterling earlier this month.

According to refuge officer Jim Neely of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, three swans were shot and killed on Sunken Island Lake sometime around Oct. 11.

Neely said it's believed the birds were on the lake when they were shot from the adjacent roadway and left to die.

"We have an ongoing investigation into this," Neely said Saturday. "We'd like to hear from anyone who saw anything or can provide any information."

According to the Alaska Depart-ment of Fish and Game's Web site, swans migrate through Southcen-tral Alaska this time of year on their way to winter homes in the continental United States. They generally travel in groups and often stop on lakes and ponds to rest.

The dead swans were reported to the refuge's bird rehabilitation center. Neely said that when wildlife officers arrived, they discovered the remains of three dead swans.

"The eagles had worked over two of them pretty good," he said. "Another one was just left out in the middle of the pond."

It's unknown if the birds died immediately after being shot or were finished off by predators. Neely said an investigation is under way to determine what type of gun was used to shoot the animals.

"We're examining the ballistic evidence now," he said.

Although swans are not an endangered species, they are covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which says anyone guilty of illegally killing migratory birds is subject to criminal prosecution. Punishment varies, but can include fines, jail time or even forfeiture of a vehicle used in the crime.

"It can be pretty severe," Neely said.

Neely said he wants to find out who is responsible for what he described as basically, "bird murder."

"It's not only a violation of the law, but, my gosh, to just shoot some swans and watch them die?" he asked. "That's just too bad."

Anyone with any information about the crime is asked to call 262-7021.

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