LAFAYETTE, La. – United States Attorney David C. Joseph announced that Kaenon A. Constantin, 28, was sentenced on July 30, 2020, to five years of probation for killing and transporting a federally protected and endangered whooping crane. During his period of probation, Constantin must complete 360 hours of community service related to wildlife conservation. As part of the sentence, Constantin’s hunting privileges have been suspended until he completes the community service. United States Magistrate Judge Hanna also ordered Constantin to pay a $10,000 fine and to pay $75,000 in restitution to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF).
In November 2019, Constantin was named in a federal bill of information for violating the Lacey Act in May 2016. Specifically, 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, Louisiana. One of the cranes, identified as L5-15, fell dead in the field, 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.
After retrieving L5-15’s carcass, they noticed that it had transponders on its legs and received information that the bird was a whooping crane. Constantin and the juvenile transported the carcass to the juvenile’s residence, where they severed the legs from L5-15’s carcass by using a knife and removed the transponders. They then transported the knife, carcass, severed legs, and transponders along a nearby road and discarded the evidence. 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 is a comprehensive federal law that protects against wildlife crimes, such as international and domestic wildlife trafficking. The Act prohibits, among other actions, a person from knowingly transporting wildlife, when in the exercise of due care the person should have known that the wildlife was taken or possessed in violation of, or in a manner unlawful under, any underlying law, treaty, or regulation of the United States. Whooping cranes are a federally protected species under federal laws and regulations, including the Endangered Species Act. They are large birds, standing nearly five feet tall and with wingspans of 7.5 feet.
United States Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Special Agent in Charge Stephen Clark stated, “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. 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. Chief of LDWF Enforcement Col. Chad Hebert and I applaud the judge in this case for imposing severe monetary punishments to help deter anyone from this behavior,” 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 United States Fish & Wildlife Service and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Danny Siefker prosecuted the case.