A female stork, a species designated as a special national treasure, was killed Friday as a hunter shot it by accident in Shimane Prefecture, western Japan, police and a local education board said Friday.


(Unnan City Board of Education)

According to the education board, one member of a local hunting group shot the stork, believing it was a heron.

The Unnan city education board confirmed the 5-year-old stork laid eggs in March and at least one chick hatched the following month, only the second such hatching in the wild except for an area around Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture, where a breeding project is under way.

Storks -- large black and white birds with long beaks, necks and legs -- have been breeding in the wild since 2007 around Toyooka, where a major stork rearing facility called the Hyogo Park of the Oriental White Stork is located.

Satoshi Yamagishi, head of the Hyogo park, called the accident "very regrettable."

"I can guess how local people waiting for the fledging feel," Yamagishi said, adding he hopes a remaining chick grows up safely.

The bird's four chicks will be raised at a specialist breeding facility until they are mature and ready to be released into the wild, the education board said.

The education board said observational logs showed the chicks' father had continued to feed them after their mother was killed, but it is believed that this would not continue, leading to the decision to relocate the chicks.