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Lino Lakes kayaker charged with hunting protected swans

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Two Trumpeter Swans fly near one another.
Two trumpeter swans fly near one another June 4, 2006 in Barrow, Alaska.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

A 25-year-old Lino Lakes man is facing a half dozen illegal hunting charges after shooting a pair of trumpeter swans in northern Anoka County last year.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources sent conservation officers to check out reports of illegal hunting on Rice Lake in Lino Lakes one day last September.

They saw a trumpeter swan swim away from shore, with a kayaker following behind. The paddler picked up a gun and shot the bird in front of the conservation officers.

The birds are federally protected. Trumpeter swans were nearly extinct 100 years ago, but have significantly rebounded, with an estimated 66,000 of the birds in North America today. About 20,000 of them are in Minnesota, according to recent DNR estimates.

The conservation officers confronted the kayaker near shore and identified him as Conner Walsh. He had two dead swans and a 12-gauge shotgun on his kayak when they stopped him. And although he initially said he'd purchased a hunting license, records showed he hadn't bought a license since 2016. Walsh told the conservation officers he thought the birds were snow geese.

Walsh is scheduled to make an appearance on the hunting charges — as well as a count of failing to have a personal flotation device — on July 17.