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Audubon Institute researchers evaluate a whooping crane at the New Orleans facility in October of 2018. The Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland is shutting down its breeding program of the bird and moving the flock to the Audubon Institute.

For most hunters and fishermen the sight of an approaching Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division agent foretells producing licenses, boat registration, counting fish and/or game, and, well, at times, waiting for a shoe to drop in the form of a citation or a written warning.

Outlaws are much more fearful, and that’s as it should be.

Maybe it’s time us mostly law-abiding folks (come on, isn’t there that one time when you didn’t have a license or some other violation) to do a 180 on our chance encounters with these men and women, who to some degree, are the faces of our LDWF.

On this weekend, maybe it’s time to give thanks we have fellow citizens willing to take on the routine stops, confront wildlife and fisheries criminals and brave the elements to save those among us who get in trouble on land and water.

And there are three people happy agents responded to save them and their families from a less-than-joyful Thanksgiving.

The LDWF release didn’t identify the agents called on a search-and-rescue detail with the Coast Guard and the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office after a father and his 10-year-old son failed to come home after a trip into Vermilion Bay.

The report stated LDWF agents found the boat and the father and son in the dark at 1:30 a.m. The outboard engine’s battery died, so the agents secured the boat, put the father and son in the Enforcement Division boat and got them back to land where they were evaluated by EMS responders, then released.

A 38-year-old kayaker on the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge went missing Sunday afternoon and agents were called. An all-night search ended at 9 a.m. Monday when, as the report stated, “The man was found about a mile from the place he launched his kayak. According to the kayaker, he went out duck hunting on the morning of Nov. 18 when he got lost and couldn’t find his way back to the launch. He attempted to call for help but was unable to get service on his cell phone.”

After getting the man back to the launch, an ambulance took him to a hospital in Sulphur where he was treated for mild hypothermia.

The LDWF report indicated U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Coast Guard and Cameron Parish Sheriff’s Office also responded to the call.

Agents’ bad time

There was another incident last Sunday when first responders have said they hate their jobs.

LDWF agents were called near 3 p.m. that day on a report of an unmanned boat in Lake Pontchartrain near Irish Bayou. The New Orleans Police Department and Coast Guard came in on a search which, near 8 p.m., produced the bodies of 87-year-old Levi Slaughter Jr. and his 62-year-old son Levi III.

The state Enforcement Division is handling the investigation. Neither man was wearing a life jacket, and the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office is assigned to determine cause of death.

Don't do this

The names will be withheld because most of us have known hunters — years ago – who’ve done something like this, but at a time when lead shot was legal and carrying buckshot was legal when you were duck hunting.

Let it be a lesson for waterfowl hunters — really all bird hunters — not to do what a couple of early-in-their-20s guys from the Acadiana area did on the opening weekend of the duck season.

The story goes these two were duck hunting on Grand Maris Bayou when an 18-point non-typical buck walked on the bank of the bayou.

After a tip was called into the LDWF and agents found and questioned the two, they admitted they’d killed the buck with what the report identified as “fine shot.”

OK, that’s a violation for taking a deer using “illegal methods,” and there’s more piled on after that, citations like having an illegally taken deer, failing to wear hunter’s orange, no big-game license and failing properly tag the deer.

Agents seized the venison and the antlers, and the two men face fines between $800-$1,850 and 285 days in jail.

Even if a judge “goes easy” on these two, they will face the LDWF’s civil restitution fee of $2,033, the set-fee for replacing the illegally taken buck.

More whoppers

Waterfowl hunters in the Grand Chenier area will have to be on their guard in the coming weeks for 12 new whooping cranes brought Monday to the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge.

After a period of adjusting to new environs, the juvenile cranes will be released into the state’s ever-growing population.

Seven of the cranes came from the International Crane Foundation and five were hatched and reared at Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center in New Orleans.

With the five chicks hatched and fledged out in the wild during the spring, the state’s wild whooping crane population increased to 75, most of which have taken up residence on private lands in the southwestern coastal parishes.

“So many hard-working folks deserve credit for the success as we work to bring back this majestic species that once was abundant in Louisiana,” LDWF secretary Jack Montoucet said, listing Chevron Oil, the Audubon Institute and LDWF biologists.

And the landowners, “We thank them all and look forward to the continued partnership,” Montoucet said.

This restocking program began in 2011 with 10 birds from a Maryland facility.

If you spot a whooping crane, LDWF biologists advised to observe from a distance and to report the sighting the LDWF website: wlf.louisiana.gov/webform/whooping-crane-reporting-form.

Because there have been instances when cranes have been shot, the LDWF also asks suspicious activity be reported to its 24-hour hotline, (800) 442-2511.