Steven Theis is facing a misdemeanor charge of shooting a nongame migratory bird, a crime punishable by fines and restitution of $375. A Turn in Poachers (TIP) phone call alerted DNR officials that a swan had been shot on Four Mile Bay of Lake of the Woods.
Capt. Jim Dunn met Theis on the lake’s shore and inquired about the swan. Theis admitted he had shot the bird and discarded its carcass in the weeds once he realized it was federally protected.
“He explained to me that the swan, that he thought was a snow goose, had landed about 100 yards from his duck decoys,” Dunn said. “He honked at it a couple of times on his goose call, and the swan took off from the water and flew directly at him and swung around his end of the boat. As it did so, he shot it.”
Tundra swans weigh 16-23 pounds and are all white with black bills. Snow geese are much smaller.
“There’s really no excuse for shooting one,” Dunn said, “because Minnesota hunters won’t encounter any other waterfowl as large as a trumpeter or tundra swan, two of the largest waterfowl in the world.”
Mistaking the two birds is no easy task.
“It’s like comparing a Volkswagen to a Cadillac,” Dunn said.
Conservation officers recovered the swan inside a weed bed the following day.