Three southeast Iowa men were charged in another case this month of Trumpeter swans being shot. Department of Natural Resources officer Ben Schlader says three swans were shot October 18th near Fort Madison.
“Within a short period of time of these bird being shot, I received multiple calls from blinds on the Mississippi River in the general vicinity of where this occurred,” Schlader says.
The investigation led to charges against 84-year-old James Conaway of Fort Madison and 70-year-old Richard Holbert and 59-year-old Vinson Davis, both of Keokuk. Three dead swans were found near the blind the men were using to hunt geese.
“The interview process was fairly short. It appears to be a case of misidentification of the swans for geese at this time,” Schlader says. Holbert and Vinson have since each pled guilty to one count of unlawfully taking a protected non-game species, one count of failure to exhibit game to conservation officer and one count of abandonment of dead wildlife. Holbert also had an additional abandonment charge for a duck left in the blind. They will each have to pay $1,500 in restitution for the dead swans.
Conway has pleaded not guilty to the three charges.
This is the second case of hunters shooting the protected swans recently after two hunters were charged in Scott County earlier this month. Schlader says it’s hard to see how Trumpeter swans can be mistaken for a goose. “Trumpeter swans are much bigger even than a giant Canada goose, which is the largest of the species of the Canada goose that we typically see. A Trumpeter swan’s wingspan on a big adult bird is right in the neighborhood of six feet from wing tip to wing tip — which is substantially larger than a goose. A Trumpeter swan probably weighs 20 to 25 pounds…probably three times the average size of a goose,” according to Schlader.
He says hunters need to use caution before shooting. “We always encourage hunters — whether it’s waterfowl hunters in this instance, or deer hunters or any type of hunting of course — you need to identify your target for a variety of reasons. Safety obviously always is paramount as far as identifying you target and what is beyond it,” Schlader says. “In these instances of course the focus is on identifying your target as a legal species to take while hunting.”
Schlader says the Trumpeter swan population has grown so it’s important for all hunters to take notice. “We see a fairly substantial migration of Trumpeter swans across the state of Iowa in the fall. We also have numerous Trumpeter swans ponds in rehab rearing type of areas where these swans are permanent residents,” Schlader says. The DNR also seized three shotguns, an all-terrain vehicle and a boat during the investigation.