UPDATE: Hunters receive citations after killing protected birds

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 | 8:01 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Agents from the Missouri Department of Conservation cited seven goose hunters after five trumpeter swans were shot dead at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area in southern Boone County on the morning of Dec. 30, 2008.

“There were three independent groups of hunters that took the swans at different parts of the day,” said Scott Rice, a conservation agent who cited four of the seven hunters. “Other hunters who saw the swans taken alerted (the Department of) Conservation, and we handed out citations to the parties when they got back from hunting.”

Rice said all of the hunters in question claimed that they mistook the swans for snow geese, a popular waterfowl currently in season. But as the largest native bird in North America, according to the department, trumpeter swans rarely are confused for the much smaller and differently colored snow geese. Rice said three independent incidents occurring on the same day also was peculiar.

“I personally don’t think it would be easy to mistake them," Rice said. "It was very odd, very unusual. We were shocked.”

Rice also was alarmed at the number of birds taken. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, trumpeter swans are classified as extirpated, meaning they rarely are seen in Missouri and no longer nest here because of excessive hunting. The large waterfowl are seen more commonly during the winter when they migrate from Canada and the northern Midwest.

“We’ve never had a case involving these swans before,” said Roger Johnson, Boone County assistant prosecuting attorney.  “It’s rare for these swans to be in this part of the state. Poaching isn't rare, but this is a special case because of the rarity of the birds and efforts to reintroduce them into the wild.”

Neither Rice nor Johnson would release the names of the hunters who were cited.

As of Wednesday, the hunters had not been formally charged, Johnson said. Their arraignments have been set for Feb. 3 in Boone County Circuit Court.

Trumpeter swans can have 8-foot wingspans and are distinguished by their long neck and all-white plumage. Snow geese are much smaller and have black wingtips.

Conservation officials say hunters who killed three trumpeter swans in 2005 in Lawrence County were fined $5,000 and sentenced to six months in jail.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Kay Allen January 22, 2009 | 7:56 a.m.

Gee, if you don't know your birds, what the heck are you doing out hunting for them? Yank those guys' licenses for a couple of years and give them some education about what's acceptable to shoot and what's not.

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox January 22, 2009 | 2:27 p.m.

I agree with Kay, I previously did quite a bit of waterfowl hunting and being able to identify much smaller ducks is necessary, so I don't see any reason to take a protected species of this size. If I can tell the difference between a Blue Wing and a Green Wing Teal, or a female Mallard and a Canvasback , why these idiots can't tell the difference between a Snow Goose and a Trumpeter Swan is beyond me. For god's sake look at the difference in the neck, let alone the marking on the wings.

(Report Comment)
Bud Neptune January 22, 2009 | 3:41 p.m.

What a shame for the loss of such beautiful wildlife! Everyone makes mistakes, some by accident and some on purpose! Thanks to the Missouri Department of Conservation for giving a "heads up" about the trumpeter swans passing through Missouri. I saw their announcement in several newspapers in the state of Missouri.

My wife, Debbie, and I had a pair on trumpeter swans nest on our lake in northern Missouri in 2005 and raised three babies (cygnets). They returned each spring for three years. Last spring (2008)the parents didn't return but their three year old baby did! He molted on our lake and left in early fall.

Here is a link to a GREAT brochure on identifing Trumpeter Swans vs. snow geese. As you can tell from the link, there is NO COMPARISON!

Last year(2007)Jack and Jill nested on our lake and had one baby. The ABC affiliate, KMBC Channel 9 News, came to our farm and did a couple minute video of the trumpeter swans and their baby, "Lazarus". Here is a link to the video from their website

Please share the link for trumpeter swan identification with your hunting friends and family so we can minimize these tragedies. God's blessings to all in the New Year.

(Report Comment)

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