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SPOTLIGHT
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Whooping cranes facing a struggle to survive

Published on -11/18/2011, 10:19 AM

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Let's hope Louisiana prosecutors will not be led by example, especially the one set out by an Indiana prosecutor earlier this year.

And let's hope the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is willing to stand up and say enough is enough, rather than quietly sit in the gallery -- as it did in Indiana.

We already know a gun in the hands of reckless people can be devastating, as is currently the case in Louisiana where two reintroduced whooping cranes were shot and killed.

Unfortunately, two youngsters -- 16 and 13 years old, the scariest part of the whole travesty -- have been identified as being responsible for the senseless acts, although no charges have been filed.

Why, you might ask, is the age of the suspects the scary part?

I need only go back to the Indiana case to support that contention.

You see, earlier this year, there was a case involving the shooting of a single whooping crane in Indiana. Two people were charged in that case, one an adult and the other -- you guessed it -- a juvenile.

The adult was fined $1. Yes, a single dollar bill. He had to pick up court costs, a measly $334.50, and was even given a year in jail.

Suspended of course.

The hard-to-swallow side of it, however, and there are several, stems from the involvement of the juvenile.

Prosecutors couldn't even talk about what happened to him. The adult's fine was minimized because the juvenile supposedly perpetrated the dastardly deed.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, meanwhile, stood back and observed, never detailing the value of the bird -- one of only about 400 left in the wild.

The value, incidentally, would be closer to $100,000.

So now we have the Louisiana case, and let's hope those folks know how to handle something like this.

Age doesn't matter in cases like this. Lessons need to be learned by those who fired the shot and by those who one day might do exactly the same.

Charge the juveniles and aim for the maximum penalty and fine.

We all suffer when a species is at risk of extinction, and the whooping crane remains perilously close.

Remember that as the birds wing their way south to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where they will encounter a host of troubles in their wintering grounds.

They will struggle enough without having someone taking potshots at them.

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