A $2,500 reward is being offered for information about the person who shot a sandhill crane on May 15 in Lake Villa.
Dawn Keller, the founder and director of Flint Creek Wildlife Center, rescued the bird after receiving a call from Lake Villa police.
“When I arrived, its mate was standing over it and was so upset. I try not to let my emotions get too out of control in these situations, but it’s truly heartbreaking,” Keller said.
Keller drove the bird to Niles Animal Hospital for surgery where the bullets or projectiles used were removed. The sandhill crane died three days later.
“These birds are not aggressive. They’re not dangerous,” Keller said. “So, it’s even harder for me to understand the motivation (for the shooting).”
This is the first time Keller has dealt with the shooting of a sandhill crane since founding Flint Creek in 2003.
In Illinois, sandhill cranes are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Illinois Wildlife Code. They cannot be captured, harassed or killed without a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to the Wildlife Illinois website.
About 20,000 sandhill cranes migrate through Illinois between February and April and again between September and November. Small numbers breed in northern Illinois, particularly in wetlands in McHenry and Lake counties.
The tall, gray-bodied, crimson-capped birds can be easily spotted in marshes, bogs and prairies in northern North America, according to The Cornell Lab. They are known for their distinct trumpeting sounds and dancing skills. Sandhill cranes mate for life.
“There are no exceptions in Illinois. There is no authorized hunting (of sandhill cranes). Their nests are protected, even their feathers are protected,” said Keller. “You can’t pick up a feather and keep it without being a licensed person that has a permit.”
If caught, the shooter could face a fine of up to $100,000 and a year in jail, according to the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
“I want people to know that we’re offering reward money and hopefully someone will be motivated,” Keller said. “And thank you to our anonymous donor because without that we wouldn’t be able to go forward with this case, at least not in such an aggressive fashion.”
Anyone will information is asked to call the Illinois Department of Natural Resources tip line at 877-2DNRLAW (877-236-7529).