Man fined $40K in nene shootings

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    A nene, or endangered Hawaiian goose, goes for a walk at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge in early October.

LIHUE — A part-time Koloa resident was ordered Tuesday to pay more than $40,000 in fines for shooting endangered nene.

Steven Cookson, 72, was convicted of five misdemeanor state charges of taking an endangered or threatened species.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state Department of Land and Natural Resources investigation revealed Cookson killed four nene with a pellet gun on Feb. 7, 2017, and attempted to kill another nene near his residence in the Kukuiula subdivision the next day.

“The protection of our threatened and endangered species is an important part of our mission,” said Justin Kollar, county prosecuting attorney.

Cookson pleaded no contest to each charge in the Environmental Court complaint. For the first four counts, Cookson was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and $155 in fees for each count. For the fifth count, Cookson was ordered to pay $155 in fees, for a total of $40,775.

In January, The Garden Island reported allegations about the nene shootings when the case was turned over to Kauai prosecutors after a USFWS investigation.

Carroll Cox, an environmental activist and former USFWS agent, told TGI in that report that Cookson was aware of the nene’s endangered status.

“The information we received initially is he was told to leave them alone, they are endangered,” Cox said.

Cookson’s attorney, Michael Green, said Thursday his client just wanted to scare the birds that were defecating in his pool, yard and walkway. Green says Cookson “didn’t know a duck from a nene.”

Green says his client “humbly apologizes” to the people of Hawaii and would never hurt an endangered animal.

Only found in Hawaii, the native geese are listed as endangered with an estimated population of 1,200 remaining on Kauai and an estimated 3,000 birds statewide, according to DLNR.

The population was whittled down statewide to only about 50 birds in the mid 1940s, and efforts in predator control and captive breeding have helped boost the population.

Highways are usually the most dangerous places for nene on Kauai, and in the past four years more than 60 birds have been struck and killed by cars.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Anthony Herndon prosecuted the case. Judge Robert Goldberg handed down the sentence.


Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or The Associated Press contributed to this report.

  1. harry oyama October 19, 2018 2:22 am Reply

    Michael Green that ambulance chaser lawyer appears to relish in defending the worst of the worst criminals on this planet. He shot at least five individual rare Nene birds and killed them. Fining him is not enough, make him do hard labor and spend some time in prison along with Michael Green.

  2. Steven McMacken October 19, 2018 4:15 am Reply

    “Didn’t know a duck from a nene,”? Yeah, they’re so much alike . . . I have the same problem trying to distinguish lions from tigers.

    1. commonsenseisnt October 19, 2018 3:23 pm Reply

      considering our Koloa are also endangered, and a lot less numerous, that’s an even worse excuse for him to make anyway.

  3. tunataxi October 19, 2018 5:56 am Reply

    Make him remove the pool too

  4. PAUL October 19, 2018 7:16 am Reply

    Poor excuse from a lowly human being. Even first time visitors to the islands learn of the nene’s special status. Banish him to the mainland.

  5. Kaua'idoug October 19, 2018 7:29 am Reply

    No jail time? Going from Kukuiula to cell might be a bit rough. Or he should be ordered community service in addition at the very least. Money is what he has the most of., And lawyers.

  6. Ruthann Caudill October 19, 2018 7:35 am Reply

    The Coco Palms Pond is also protected through the State Historical Society. Did Chad and Tyler have a permit?

  7. Joy October 19, 2018 7:56 am Reply

    It should have been a $40 million fine.

  8. curious dog October 19, 2018 9:11 am Reply

    He just wanted to “scare” the birds (mama & babies!) yet killed 4 of them & tried to kill a 5th the next day? The guy’s lying through his teeth & if he didn’t know about the endangered nene, he’s an idiot! He cannot plead ignorance & expect the public to feel sorry for him. Spraying them w/a hose would have been the way to go & babies can’t fly, so his attorney is also lying to the public on this glaring fact.
    These fines should be much steeper & income level should be taken into account when sentencing. To a part-time Koloa resident living in Kukuiula, having enough $$ for a second or perhaps 3rd vacation home should be considered when handing down a sentence.
    Besides raising his fines to meet his income bracket, they should give him community service so that everytime he visits his Koloa vacation home he can pick up a poop shovel & clean up the excrement, human or otherwise, all over the island!! Our dog just dug up human excrement 2 days ago on the beach & there was a massive pile under the concrete tracks by Kountry Kitchen a month ago. There’s plenty to do & he shouldn’t be able to get away with this w/o getting his hands physically dirty.

  9. Molly Summers October 19, 2018 10:17 am Reply

    This is blatant disrespect for Hawaiʻi; his swimming pool is more important than endangered natives! Where did this shooting take place? If in the Kiahuna area, has this man not also been charged with discharging firearms in a residential area?
    HRS § 707-714. Reckless endangering in the second degree
    (1) A person commits the offense of reckless endangering in the second degree if the person:
    (a) Engages in conduct that recklessly places another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury; or
    (b) Intentionally discharges a firearm in a populated area, in a residential area, or within the boundaries or in the direction of any road, street, or highway; provided that the provisions of this paragraph shall not apply to any person who discharges a firearm upon a target range for the purpose of the target shooting done in compliance with all laws and regulations applicable thereto.
    (2) Reckless endangering in the second degree is a misdemeanor.
    E mālama iā Hawaiʻi.

    1. MisterM October 19, 2018 3:32 pm Reply

      @Molly – did you bother to READ the article before you went off half-cocked with righteous indignation? Sigh.

      Agreed, this entitled 1%er is an idiot and $40K fine is a drop in the bucket for someone living in Kukuiula part-time. A lousy fine is too easy a penalty – this guy won’t bat an eye writing $40K check, other than to perhaps curse “liberals” and “socialists”…should get him out picking up the trash – he’d be right at home with all the other garbage.

  10. curious dog October 19, 2018 10:50 am Reply

    Yes, & one more thing….pellet gun schmellet gun…why not get an AR-15 from the guy selling ’em by the credit union? Anyone can plead ignorance but a gun is a gun is a gun. He can go out & kill little helpless baby duckies swimming in his over-chlorinated pool & IF he gets caught again, he can simply buy his way out….again. It truly is the American Way.
    …Didn’t know it was the LAST rhino on the planet? Well, at least I got it & you can now fine me for it. C-ya!

  11. Ron Alcaraz October 19, 2018 11:39 am Reply

    “Lock him up! Lock him up!”

    He needs to be deported..LOL

  12. manongindashadow October 19, 2018 11:58 am Reply

    He doesn’t serve any jail time? What’s up with that? Oh yeah, “he’s (Cookson) is not local who beat up on endangered animals!” One has to be a local to beat up, harm/kill an endangered species.

  13. rk669 October 19, 2018 1:46 pm Reply

    Geese or unborn children? That’s the Question! Which is more Important? 66 Million babies lost ,Lost in Tax Revenues ?

  14. manongindashadow October 19, 2018 3:42 pm Reply

    He was only trying to scare them(nenes) away by aiming center mass or at the heads. Some scar he gave them. “That they died!”
    He(Cookson) should face a firing squad with guns loaded with rubber bullets at twenty feet away and shoot at him.

  15. YUMMY October 19, 2018 8:08 pm Reply

    Shucks, we were at his new years party last year, it was turtle & seal meat, stuffed inside a nene goose. He charged $1,00/person in case he needed bail – I thought it was a joke till I tasted it. AWESOME!!!

  16. No get nutz October 19, 2018 9:09 pm Reply

    Deport’em to the states no let’em come back.

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