$7,500 reward offered for info in shooting of endangered whooping crane in Acadia Parish

There are an estimated 76 whooping in Southwest Louisiana. (LDWF photo)

A Rayne man has been sentenced to five years of probation for killing and transporting a federally protected, endangered whooping crane. 

Kaenon A. Constantin, 28, was sentenced Thursday, according to U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph. During his probation, Constantin must complete 360 hours of community service related to wildlife conservation. Constantin’s hunting privileges have also been suspended until he completes community service. U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna also ordered Constantin to pay a $10,000 fine and $75,000 in restitution to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. 

In November 2019, Constantin was named in a federal bill of information for violating the Lacey Act, a comprehensive federal law that protects against wildlife crimes, such as international and domestic wildlife trafficking. On May 20, 2016, Constantin and a juvenile, using .22-caliber rifles, shot at a pair of whooping cranes located in a field within Acadia Parish. One of the cranes, identified as L5-15, was killed, and Constantin and his accomplice retrieved its carcass. The other crane, identified as L3-15, flew too far north into another field so that it could not be retrieved, but investigators later recovered its carcass.

Constantin and the juvenile transported the dead whooping crane to the juvenile’s residence, where they severed it's legs and removed the transponders attached. They then discarded the evidence alongside a nearby road. When initially approached by investigators shortly after the crime, Constantin lied about his involvement, causing the investigation to continue for nearly two more years before he finally confessed in April 2018.

The Lacey Act, among other actions, a person from knowingly transporting wildlife. Whooping cranes, standing nearly 5 feet tall and with wingspans of near 7 feet, are a federally protected species under the Endangered Species Act. 

“We take our mission partnering with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats very seriously," said Stephen Clark, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acting special agent in charge. "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, considers the illegal taking of protected wildlife species a high priority, and we will continue to work closely with our state agencies to assist them in these important joint investigations."

“Our agents take any investigation of illegally shooting whooping cranes very seriously," said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has spent a lot of resources in an effort to bring back the native whooping crane to a sustainable population, and senseless shootings like this case make that mission much more problematic.”

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the LDWF conducted the investigation; assistant U.S. Attorney Danny Siefker prosecuted the case.