Nebraska Game and Parks Commission authorities say two men have been cited for poaching trumpeter swans near Gibbon.
Conservation Officer Jerry Pecha says it's fairly rare to see trumpeter swans in central Nebraska. That's one reason the species is protected by the state and federal government.
"At one time it was endangered, because the thing flies so slow, and so low, it makes it a real easy bird to shoot, and that's one of the reasons it's been hunted almost to the point of extinction," Game and Parks Master Instructor Dave Woods says.
That's also why the hunters who shot two trumpeter swans near Gibbon Saturday are now facing nearly $1,000 each in fines and liquidated damages.
"Liquidated damages are considered the value of each animal and swans happen to be $750 each," Pecha says.
Officials say those hunters buried the birds and denied shooting them before telling a Nebraska Game and Parks officer they thought they were shooting at snow geese.
But, local hunters say it's not difficult to tell the difference between the two types of birds.
"A snow goose probably weighs maybe a little more than 4 pounds, somewhere in that neighborhood," Pecha says. "A mature swan, trumpeter swan, weighs at least 20 pounds."
Pecha says the neck on a trumpeter swan is also considerably longer than the neck on a snow goose.
According to hunting laws, it's the responsibility of each hunter to know what he or she is shooting.
"Even though I've been hunting for years, there's stuff out in the field that at first glance, I don't know what it is." Woods says.
Woods says when that's the case, hunters have to let the animal go.
"You've got to be really sure what you're shooting at before you pull the trigger," Woods says.
Authorities say the hunters were turned in by a witness who saw them shoot the birds. Nebraska Game and Parks officials say it's important to contact authorities immediately if you notice any hunters not following the laws.