A 26-year-old northern Minnesota hunter has been charged with shooting and killing a federally protected Tundra swan on Lake of the Woods last month, KARE 11 reports.
Steven L. Theis was charged with a misdemeanor count of shooting a migratory bird, officials say.
Theis was charged following a Turn in Poachers call was made to the Minnesota Department of Resources about the shooting.
DNR Captain James Dunn said in a DNR news release that the hunter didn't realize he was shooting at a Tundra swan.
“He explained to me that the swan, that he thought was a snow goose, had landed about 100 yards from his duck decoys,” Dunn said in the release. “He honked at it a couple of times on his goose call, and the swan took off from the water and flew directly at him and swung around his end of the boat. As it did so, he shot it.”
According to the release, "Theis said he recovered the swan and asked a person if a snow goose is bigger than a Canada goose. The person replied no, and told him to get rid of it so he threw the bird into the grass. Conservation officers recovered the swan inside a weed bed the following day."
If convicted, Theis faces a $375 fine and restitution.
Dunn says despite warnings to hunters, a handful of Tundra swans are shot every year.
"There’s really no excuse for shooting one because Minnesota hunters won’t encounter any other waterfowl as large as a Trumpeter or Tundra swan, two of the largest waterfowl in the world," Dunn says.
The DNR says Tundra swans weigh 16 to 23 pounds and are 52 to 58 inches long. The birds also have wingspans up to 5 feet 5 inches and a long neck.
By contrast, snow geese are smaller than the familiar Canada geese that populate the state, and average 25 to 31 inches long and weigh only 6 or 7 pounds, the agency says.
The DNR encourages anyone witnessing a fish or wildlife violation to contact the agency's 24-hour, toll-free Turn In Poachers (TIP) hotline at 800-652-9093. Cell phone users can call #TIP.