MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A 25-year-old man is accused of shooting and killing two federally-protected trumpeter swans while kayaking last year in Anoka County.

Conner Benjamin Walsh, of Lino Lakes, was charged via summons last week with seven misdemeanors, ranging from hunting protected birds to not wearing a life jacket while operating watercraft.

According to a criminal complaint, DNR conservation officers saw Walsh on Sept. 28 in a kayak on Rice Lake, following a trumpeter swan on open water. The officers witnessed him shoot the large migratory bird with a shotgun, grab the bird and drag it behind him on the kayak.

When officers spoke with Walsh, they saw he had two dead trumpeter swans draped over his kayak. He admitted to shooting them, saying that he thought they were snow geese.

According to the DNR, trumpeter swans look similar to snow geese (a legal game species) but are four to five time bigger.

When the officers asked to see Walsh’s hunting license, he only produced one from 2016. He said he wasn’t able to get a 2018 license and stamps at Fleet Farm because his driver’s license was expired.

Trumpeter swans are federally protected birds and cannot be hunted without authorization under Minnesota game and fish laws, the complaint states.

If convicted of the misdemeanors, Walsh faces possible jail time and individual fines up to $1,000. He is slated to appear in court on July 17.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, trumpeter swans are the largest waterfowl in North America and the largest swan in the world.

In the early 1900s, the swans were nearly hunted to extinction. Legislation first passed to protect the birds in 1918 and since then, through numerous programs, trumpeter swan numbers in North America were recorded at 4,500 in 2004.

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