JENNINGS — Two endangered whooping cranes brought to Louisiana to reintroduce the rare species to southern marshes were shot and killed Sunday, officials with the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced Tuesday.

Eyewitness reported seeing two juveniles stop on a rural road near Jennings and shoot the large birds from their truck, according to a news release from the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Wildlife agents have since located the dead birds and the unnamed juveniles, according to the news release.

“Losing two cranes, especially in such a thoughtless manner, is a huge setback in the department’s efforts to re-establish a whooping crane population in Louisiana. We take this careless crime very seriously,” Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham said in a news release.

Wildlife and Fisheries spokesman Bo Boehringer said no decision has been made on what charges to pursue.

Ten young whooping cranes were released earlier this year at the state’s White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in a federal-state project to revive a bird species that now numbers only about 400 in the wild.

The reintroduction site was in the same general area where the last flock of Louisiana whooping cranes was documented in the 1940s.

Of the 10 birds that were introduced at White Lake, wildlife researchers can still account for four through tracking devices, Boehringer said.

He said two birds are unaccounted for and four crane deaths have been confirmed — the two shot over the weekend, one killed by a predator and another that had to be euthanized because of a lung infection.