Gueydan man pleaded guilty for illegal shooting of whooping crane in federal court
A Gueydan man pleaded guilty on July 7 in Federal Court in Lafayette for migratory bird violations that occurred in Vermilion Parish.
Judge Carol B. Whitehurst of the Western District Court accepted the guilty plea of Lane T. Thibodeaux, 21, for taking a whooping crane for which there is no season, taking migratory game birds out of season, from a moving vehicle and without a Louisiana hunting license, and wanton waste of migratory game birds. Judge Whitehurst sentenced Thibodeaux to serve 45 days in Federal Prison for each of the five convictions to run concurrently and a $2,500 fine. He must pay his fine in full within one year or he will have to serve 45 days in Federal Prison for each of the five convictions to run consecutively.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) enforcement agents began investigating a whooping crane that was found in a field just north of Gueydan off of Zaunbrecher Rd. with a gunshot wound in its left leg on Nov. 4, 2014. The crane was transported to the LSU Veterinary School where it had to be euthanized because of its gunshot injury.
Through the course of the investigation agents were able to ascertain information from confidential informants that told them Thibodeaux was the person that shot the whooping crane. Agents were able to obtain a search warrant for Thibodeaux’s phone and then collect videos and photos showing Thibodeaux shooting migratory game birds from a vehicle off of a public road near the area where the whooping crane was found. The phone also contained information of Thibodeaux being involved in illegal narcotic activity, which was turned over to the Vermilion Parish Narcotics Task Force.
During the investigation agents also learned that Thibodeaux threatened the informants to not give any information to LDWF agents about the whooping crane he shot. Agents arrested Thibodeaux on charges of felony witness intimidation on March 4, 2015 and those charges are still pending at this time.
The crane in this case had been released in January of 2014. LDWF is working cooperatively with the USFWS, USGS, the International Crane Foundation and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to bring the species back to the state. This non-migratory flock of whooping cranes is designated as a non-essential, experimental population but is protected under state law, the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The confidential informants will split a reward for their information that led to the arrest and conviction of Thibodeaux. The reward money consisted of $1,000 each from LDWF’s Operation Game Thief program and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation; $5,000 from The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust; and $3,000 from anonymous donors.
The lead LDWF investigative agent for this case was Senior Agent Derek Logan with assistance from Lt. Beau Robertson and Sgt. David Sanford. The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab and PC Recovery in Lafayette assisted with collecting the data from the seized cell phones. The Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office also assisted with the execution of warrants.