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Press Release

Miller Man Sentenced For Killing Endangered Species

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota

United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that a Miller, South Dakota man pled guilty and was sentenced for killing an endangered whooping crane.

Jeff Blachford, age 26, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on February 13, 2013 and pled guilty to one count of violating the Federal Endangered Species Act. Blachford was sentenced to $85,000 in restitution, 2 years of probation, and a $25 assessment to the Victim Assistance Fund. Blachford was additionally ordered to forfeit the rifle he used in the offense and is prohibited from hunting, fishing, or trapping anywhere in the United States for two years.

“Wildlife is an important resource to the people of South Dakota. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, and the sentence handed down today for the senseless killing of a whooping crane, one of the rarest birds in the world, is a prime example of the enforcement of that law,” said Johnson. “The Department of Justice works hand in hand with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and takes the killing of endangered species very seriously. Let this case serve as notice to anyone who thinks otherwise.”

In April 2012, Blachford shot and killed an adult male whooping crane approximately 17 miles southwest of Miller. “The killing of this whooping crane was a senseless act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pleased with the sentence handed down in this case,” said Deputy Chief Edward Grace of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. “The protection of endangered species is a high priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our Special Agents, in partnership with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, will continue to aggressively investigate these types of violations to ensure these animals receive the protection they need to survive.”

Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in the world with a total population of approximately 600 individuals. The whooping crane killed in this case was one of about 300 wild whooping cranes that migrate from wintering grounds along the gulf coast of Texas to the Woods Buffalo State Park located in Alberta and the Northwest Territories of Canada. This population of whooping cranes is the only self-sustaining population in the world.

This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan N. Dilges prosecuted the case.

Updated June 22, 2015