Angry Farmer Single-Handedly Slaughters an Entire Colony of Protected Birds in One Afternoon

Photo: dave and rose / cc

When some people get angry they clench their teeth, shake their fists, and raise their voice. Craig Staloch, a farmer from Minnesota, slaughters an entire colony of birds. Earlier this year, Staloch became enraged when thousands of American White Pelicans began nesting on his rented property near Minnesota Lake. He contacted wildlife officials, but when they told him the birds were protected by law, the farmer took matters into his own hands, committing one of the most extreme cases of wildlife destruction officials have ever seen: he killed them all in just one afternoon.American White Pelicans were once driven to near extinction, but in recent decades, thanks to conservation efforts and government protection, the birds have made a slow and steady comeback. In recent years, the pelicans have been forced to find new colonies throughout Minnesota. Prior to the farmer's violent outburst, there had been 16 known nesting sites in the state, and officials from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have been in the process of monitoring their health.

Unfortunately, one colony of some 3,000 pelicans had come to settle on land rented by Staloch -- and he's clearly not a bird-lover.

According to the Kansas City Star, the farmer's property was visited by DNR agents last May who were performing a survey of pelican colonies. Staloch was frustrated that the birds were occupying about seven acres of his property, but officials informed him of the animal's protected status and recommended he build a fence around his crops. After authorities left, Staloch went out and decimated the entire colony -- but he didn't know the DNR was coming back.

The next day it was obvious that something was wrong, [pelican expert Linda Wires] said. Normally, the enormous birds, with wing spans of 8 to 10 feet, fly off when disturbed. But the colony was eerily silent and empty, she said.

Then they began finding broken eggs. When Wires put her hand on the grassy nests, they were cold. As they moved through the brush, they began finding smashed and dead chicks. They found a total 1,458 nests and 2,400 eggs and chicks had been destroyed. Only one chick was still alive.

"It was a gruesome sight," Wires said.

Kohlmeyer said that when confronted by investigators for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Staloch admitted that he'd destroyed the colony.

Last month, Staloch was charged with violating the protections American White Pelicans enjoy under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and this week he made his first court appearance. According to the Staloch's attorney, the farmer overreacted to his bird problem. "He flipped out. He got frustrated and went to town."

At the hearing Staloch entered no plea. If convicted, he faces fines of $15,000 and six months in jail.

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