Whooping crane killer barred from owning firearms for 5 years

A 19-year-old Southeast Texas man was sentenced Tuesday to five years probation in the killing of two whooping cranes in Jefferson County earlier this year.

Trey Joseph Frederick, of Beaumont, had pleaded guilty in the endangered species case, winning scorn from birders and hunters alike. As part of his probation, Frederick is prohibited for five years from owning or possessing firearms, ammunition or any other dangerous weapon, according to the sentence handed down by U.S. Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn. He is also prohibited from hunting or fishing anywhere in the United States for five years.

“The fact that this act of senseless cruelty was universally condemned by the local community, who along with landowners played a vital role in this case being solved quickly, sends a strong message to future game law criminals,” said Col. Craig Hunter, director of law enforcement at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which worked with federal authorities to investigate the case.

GET THE DAY’S LATEST NEWS: Click here to sign up for our Afternoon Updates email

The whooping crane stands nearly 5 feet tall, making it the tallest bird in North America. Continent wide, there are an estimated 600 whooping cranes, so called because of their whooping call, and only about 450 in the wild, according to data from the International Crane Foundation, which tracks the birds.

Before confessing to the crime, Frederick initially told investigators that another man had shot the cranes and that Frederick had failed to chase him down, according to court documents. One of the shot birds had been mauled by Frederick’s dog, according to the records.

In May, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for the “taking” of a whooping crane under the Endangered Species Act, admitting that he did “knowingly possess” an endangered species. (There is not a felony charge associated with violating the Endangered Species Act.)

Frederick faced a fine of up to $50,000 and as much as a year behind bars.

Frederick, who has begun a career as a welder, was ordered to pay more than $25,000 in restitution, including $12,907.50 to both the International Crane Foundation and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. Frederick must also perform 200 hours of community service.

At least 16 whooping cranes have been shot since 2010, according to information compiled by Lizzie Condon, a whooping crane specialist at the International Crane Foundation.

One migratory flock breeds in northern Canada and winters on the Texas coast at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Rockport. The two dead birds found in East Texas one morning in January were part of a Louisiana-based flock.

RELATED: In victory for state, Supreme Court lets whooping crane decision stand

A phone message and email message left with Frederick’s court-appointed attorney were not returned. Frederick apologized in court, according to Liz Smith, Texas Program Director of the International Crane Foundation.

As many as 1,400 whooping cranes migrated across North America in the mid-1800s, according to figures from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. By the late 1930s, the Aransas population was down to just 18 birds, though it has bounced back in recent years due to conservation efforts.

Members of the species mate for life but will accept a new mate if one dies. The cranes can live as long as 24 years in the wild.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Community news: Learning day Tuesday at Barton Springs Pool

TRAVIS COUNTY SOUTH AUSTIN Learning day at Barton Springs Barton Springs University will host a day of outdoor science activities and swimming from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday at Barton Springs Pool, 2201 Barton Springs Road. The free event will include learning sessions with scientists, water policy experts and professionals at five different venues...
Traffic report for Sept. 25, 2017

Interstate 35 (Hays County): Northbound Exit 213 for RM 150-Center Street will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday as needed. The inside lane on the southbound access road will be closed between RM 150-Center Street and Yarrington Road from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The inside lane on the northbound access road will...
Who will pay for MoPac cost overruns? Agency, contractor deal in sight
Who will pay for MoPac cost overruns? Agency, contractor deal in sight

They’ve butted heads and talked of lawsuits as the MoPac Boulevard toll lane construction project has dragged on two years beyond its target completion date. Now the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and its toll project contractor appear to be near a financial settlement. The mobility authority board, in a specially called meeting scheduled...
State GOP raises concerns over George P. Bush’s Alamo stewardship
State GOP raises concerns over George P. Bush’s Alamo stewardship

Texas Republican Party leaders expressed concern Saturday that Land Commissioner George P. Bush’s leadership of the effort to restore and “reimagine” the Alamo is lacking in transparency and a singular focus on the 1836 battle that makes the historic site in downtown San Antonio the most sacred shrine in Texas. In a 57-1 vote, the...
TRIB FEST DIGEST: Comptroller says Harvey won’t hamper Texas economy
TRIB FEST DIGEST: Comptroller says Harvey won’t hamper Texas economy

HURRICANE HARVEY Comptroller says Harvey won’t hamper Texas economy for long Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar was hesitant to give an estimate Saturday of how much Hurricane Harvey will cost the state, but he said the federal government will pick up most of the bill. Hegar, speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival, said Harvey’s state recovery...
More Stories