A 25-year-old Lino Lakes man who shot and killed two federally protected trumpeter swans as he sat in a kayak on a Twin Cities lake has been sentenced to the nine days in jail he’s already served.
Wednesday’s sentence for Conner B. Walsh, who pleaded guilty in Anoka County District Court to misdemeanor counts of hunting protected birds and hunting small game without a license, also includes an order to pay $1,000 in restitution and $288 in fines and fees.
Judge Susan Miles also ordered Walsh to forfeit the shotgun he used to kill the birds in September 2018 on Rice Lake in Lino Lakes.
The trumpeter swan is the largest native waterfowl in North America and the largest swan in the world, at 6 feet in length and more than 25 pounds. The federally protected species cannot be killed without authorization under state law, the charges noted.
Walsh said he thought the swans that he shot were snow geese, which can be hunted in season, according to the charges. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), however, points out that trumpeter swans are four to five times larger than snow geese.
But even if the mistaken identification is sincerely expressed, said Margaret Smith, executive director of the Plymouth-based Trumpeter Swan Society, “hunters are supposed to know the difference.”
According to the criminal complaint:
Someone notified authorities about a man hunting with a gun on Rice Lake. A DNR officer arrived to the 442-acre lake and saw Walsh in a kayak trailing a swan as it swam. Walsh aimed his shotgun and shot the swan, then grabbed the dead bird and dragged it alongside the kayak.
DNR officers headed off Walsh in his kayak and saw two dead trumpeter swans draped across the bow.
Trumpeter swans originally graced wetlands from Illinois northwest to Alaska, according to the DNR.
By the 1880s, they had all but disappeared from Minnesota, and by the 1930s, only 69 remained in the Lower 48 states, living in a remote area in southwestern Montana.
In 1982, there were no more than eight pairs in Minnesota when officials from the University of Minnesota, the Trumpeter Swan Society, the Three Rivers Park District and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service drafted a restoration plan.
As of 2015, the trumpeter swan population in Minnesota stood at roughly 17,000.