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A 26-year-old Miller man must pay $85,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to illegally shooting an endangered whooping crane, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson announced Wednesday.

Jeff Blachford entered his plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno in Pierre on Wednesday, where he also was sentenced to two years of probation and a $25 assessment to the Victim Assistance Fund. Blachford must forfeit the rifle he used in the shooting and is prohibited from hunting, fishing or trapping anywhere in the United States for two years.

U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson said the sentence imposed against Blachford should send a message to others who may be inclined to violate laws designed to protect rare wildlife species. There are only about 600 whooping cranes in the world.

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“The Department of Justice works hand in hand with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and takes the killing of endangered species very seriously," Johnson said.

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In April 2012, Blachford shot and killed an adult male whooping crane about 17 miles southwest of Miller.

This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks.

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