S. Minn. man ordered to pay $12,500 fine for mass killing of white pelicans

White Pelican
Hundreds of federally-protected White Pelican eggs and nests were destroyed by farmer Craig Staloch, who feared the birds would damage his crop.
Carrol Henderson/Minnesota DNR

A southern Minnesota farmer was sentenced Monday to two years probation and 100 hours of community service at a wildlife preserve for killing hundreds of protected white pelicans last May.

Craig Louis Staloch, 59, pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in November 2011. Staloch was also ordered to pay a $12,500 fine.

Staloch admitted that he used a stick to destroy about 1,000 American white pelican nests and hundreds of eggs in a colony on his rented farmland. A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wildlife specialist also found countless chicks dead from exposure.

"This is one of the largest illegal takes of migratory birds in the nation and most likely the most serious Migratory Bird Treaty Act violation to have ever occurred in Minnesota," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Pat Lund wrote in a statement. "The defendant in this case knowingly and single-handedly destroyed nearly 15 percent of the breeding grounds for the American white pelican in Minnesota."

Federal prosecutors say a state wildlife specialist visited Staloch's rented land in May because the birds had nested there the previous year.

The specialist found numerous nests and told Staloch not to disturb them because of their protected status. The specialist returned the next day and found most of the eggs in the nests had been smashed and countless chicks were dead.

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