That’s why two hunters who allegedly shot three swans in the Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area, located on U.S. 6 between Sandusky and Fremont, aren’t getting much sympathy from fellow hunters or wildlife officials.
One swan is dead and one is recovering from a wing wound at Back to the Wild in Castalia. A third swan also was reported shot but it was not found and its condition is unknown.
The two face misdemeanor poaching charges, said Kevin Newsome, wildlife officer supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife office in Findlay.
Newsome said he did not know the names of the hunters and said a report with more information will be completed later this week. The main investigating officer was off Tuesday, he said.
Trumpeter swans are listed as a threatened species in Ohio. They were listed as endangered until about two years ago so they are doing better, but it’s still illegal to hunt them anywhere in Ohio, Newsome said.
Fellow hunters who witnessed the swans being shot phoned wildlife officers on the state’s 1-800-POACHER tip line after witnessing the incident. Officers soon arrived on the scene, and the hunters were tracked down the next day, Newsome said.
He said the reports from the other hunters were a key to the case.
“We have good witnesses,” he said.
The hunters face likely citations, possible suspension of hunting licenses and restitution that could cost $1,000 a bird, Newsome said. The judge also could order the hunters to reimburse Back to the Wild for the cost of nursing the wounded swan back to health, he said.
Newsome said swan shootings in Ohio are rare but not unknown. In many cases, the shootings are not deliberate and involve inexperienced hunters, he said. Waterfowl hunters should hunt with experienced hunters at first, he said, until they can tell swans from legally-hunted birds such as ducks and geese.
“It’s not like squirrel hunting or rabbit hunting, where everybody knows what a squirrel looks like,” he said.
Back to the Wild, located in Castalia, nurses injured wild animals and releases them back into their native habitat.
That’s the plan for the swan, which has an injury to the wing and is believed to be female, said Mona Rutger, Back to the Wild’s founder and leader.
“We got good news today. It might possibly be releasable by spring,” she said.
Trumpeter swans are the heaviest bird in North America. The huge birds are vegetarians, gobbling up grain and plants.
Their wings pack a wallop, as Rutger discovered when the swan hit her when Rutger was giving it medicine.
“It leaves a bruise. It’s like being struck by a two-by- four,” Rutger said.