The case involving the shooting of an American white pelican on Mill Lake in the town of Land O’ Lakes last summer has been solved, with two Greenville men convicted in Vilas County Circuit Court last week of shooting a protected bird or animal.

With the help of local media and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confidential hotline, conservation warden Tim Price of Vilas County was able to locate and question the two men during his investigation.

“We received several calls, and one in particular with good information,” said Price. “Someone called the DNR’s anonymous tip line, saying they read the story in the Vilas County News-Review. They were able to give us some good information and we acted on that. So you guys (News-Review) had a big part in that.”

The investigation led Price to the Fox Valley, where he interviewed cousins Neal. A. Paalman, 60, and Jeffrey S. Paalman, 47, both of GreenĀ­ville.

“We learned that Neal was the shooter and Jeffrey was the driver of the pontoon, so he was charged for being party to the crime,” said Price.

Both Paalmans appeared without counsel in Vilas County Circuit Court last Monday, Nov. 18. Neal Paalman pleaded guilty and was convicted of shooting a protected bird or animal. He was fined $320.80. Jeffrey Paalman pleaded guilty and was convicted of shooting a protected bird or animal, party to a crime, and was fined $303.30.

The state also asked for two years of revocation of DNR licenses and privileges for both men, and the confiscation of the weapon used in the shooting. The court granted the DNR request and the confiscation of the .22 rifle used in the incident.

A witness had reported the shooting of the American white pelican on Mill Lake in the town of Land O’ Lakes on the afternoon of Saturday, July 27.

Price, who investigated the incident for the DNR, said the pelican was seriously injured as a result of the shooting and the bird had to be euthanized.

“We were pretty certain that the shots came from a boat about 4:45 p.m. on July 27,” said Price. 

A witness told Price the pelican, which is rare in North Woods, had been seen on the lake for about a week and a half leading up to the incident. 

Mill Lake is located near the Wisconsin-Michigan border on the north side of Highway B just west of downtown Land O’ Lakes. Mill Lake is connected to Landing Lake by a navigable channel, though neither lake has a public boat landing.

Price said the Paalman family has at least one residence on Landing Lake.

“The Paalmans told me they thought the bird was injured and shot it from the pontoon boat,” said Price. “Neal was the shooter and shot at the bird five or six times with a .22. Unfortunately, there was unrepairable damage to the bird because it was hit three or four times. Jeffrey was the boat driver.” 

Adult American white pelicans are snowy white with black flight feathers visible only when the wings are spread. The long bill and legs are yellow-orange. Immatures are mostly white as well, but the head, neck and back are variably dusky. The length of the massive white bird is 50 to 65 inches, with a wingspan of 96 to 114 inches. 

They typically breed on islands in shallow wetlands in the interior of the continent. In Wisconsin, pelicans nest on Cat Island near Green Bay, islands on Lake Butte des Morts, and in the Horicon Marsh refuge. They spend winters mainly on coastal waters, bays and estuaries, or a little distance inland.

While they are viewed as rare in northern Wisconsin, experts say white pelicans are expanding their migratory range.

Price said he got a lot of local support during the investigation.

“A lot of calls came in just being supportive during the investigation. We received great support from the Land O’ Lakes community,” said Price. “Overall, it was just a good situation all the way around.”

Price reminded area residents that the DNR’s confidential hotline is 1-800-TIP-WDNR.