FL: Bird lovers watch in horror as hunter guns down Tundra swan that rarely appears in Florida

Bird watchers report hunter who killed protected swan at Lake Jackson (tallahassee.com)


Bird watchers eagerly gathered Saturday morning at Crowder Landing to confirm a rare sighting: two Tundra swans that migrated all the way to Florida.

But the bird lovers were horrified when they watched a hunter gun one of them down right before their eyes.

“We were screaming at him,” Elizabeth Hawkins said. “Both birds were screaming. It was pretty distressing.”

Hawkins, one of her friends and two other hunters at Lake Jackson witnessed the “needless killing” and immediately reported the incident to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The man shot at both large, all-white birds, which are federally-protected and can’t be hunted in the state. One managed to fly away, but he tracked the other down in his kayak. Hawkins said it looked like he wrung the bird’s neck, shoved it under water, then slung it onto his boat.

“Tundra swans, while seen in flocks during migration, separate in solitary pairs (and) mate for life,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

State wildlife officers were waiting for the hunter by the time he got off the water, she said.

“Officers responded to a report in Leon County regarding an individual shooting a tundra swan, resulting in its death,” a FWC spokesperson told the Democrat in an email.

“The subject was cited for violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty act and no Federal Duck Stamp, both misdemeanors. FWC took possession of the swan.” (The Democrat rarely names people charged in misdemeanor cases.

The officers approached the hunter and asked if he had any luck that day, to which he said he hadn’t. One of the officers then told him he already knew “he had harvested a swan,” according to the report.

“The individual stated, ‘Oh, no. I killed a snow goose,’ (and) agreed to show me the snow goose for further inspection,” the report says.

The hunter told the officers that the bird was in the bag on his boat because “he was nervous,” and second-guessing if it was actually a goose or a swan and didn’t want anyone to see it, according to the report.

“(He) stated he had bee duck hunting for 35 years and never misidentified a bird,” the report says.

The birds breed in northern Canada and then migrate south, but rarely do they ever end up in Florida, she said. This is possibly the third instance the migratory birds have appeared in Leon County, and bird watchers will come from everywhere to see birds like this, she added.


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