Keeping a bald eagle feather could result in a $100,000 fine and a year in prison

Eagle Feather Quill

Eagle Feather On The Beach-2

John Gallone shared this story with me and kindly gave me permission to post it on Boing Boing. He writes:

The beaches of the Pacific Northwest are loaded with interesting finds.

From glass floats that have drifted from Japan to carcasses of sea life that defy the imagination but one of the items I have been searching for for years has been an eagle feather. Yesterday during a beach hike near my home I found a large wing feather from a mature bald eagle.

Now, not only is the bird a thing of beauty in itself but its feathers are beautifully constructed with ample size and a thick quill.

When proving Galileo’s theory of gravitational pull in a vacuum it was an eagle feather, which Neil Armstong used on the first moon landing. The landing probe was called the Eagle, remember “The eagle has landed” ?

These items are very highly prized among Native Americans and in fact they are the only people allowed to posses an eagle feather and even they must have certification of tribal membership and the appropriate registration license to acquire one legally. And there is the rub... or a mere pale-face such as myself, possession of even one feather brings a fine of $100,000 and a jail sentence.

The law: “Anyone who possesses an eagle feather, and doesn't meet the requirements, could face fines up to $100,000 and a year in prison. A second offense is upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony, and carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The act also provides for a civil penalty of up to $5,000.”

I returned my incredible find to the beach... all I have are these photos.

Take only pictures; leave only footprints indeed...


  1. So if a big feather falls out of the sky and lands in your yard what should you do? Call the cops?

    There are big hawk, crow, and owl feathers all over my mother’s land that I couldn’t tell from those feathers in the picture.

  2. I found a few of those on beaches on Vancouver Is. when I was a kid. Hope I don’t still have them in a box somewhere!? And a brought them into the US when I was 11. Never knew international crime was so easy to accidentally commit.

  3. There are tens of thousands of bald eagles eating trash in Alaska dumps at any given moment. Flying rats. Good things we don;t pledge allegiance to them (as we do The Flag).

  4. It was on Apollo 15 that the Galileo experiment was done. Commander Dave Scott used a falcon feather.

  5. @ #2/Antinous
    That has to be one of the neatest things I have seen in a long while. It was pretty amazing to see so many all together and up close like that. Thanks for sharing.

  6. @Hepcat – the owl and hawk feathers are illegal to possess too.

    There’s one other group that can legally possess raptor feathers – anyone want to take a guess?

    1. There’s one other group that can legally possess raptor feathers – anyone want to take a guess?


  7. I can understand it being illegal to possess a part of a bird, like the bald eagle, but a fscking feather? Seriously? That’s like picking up a part of a blown-apart tire on the side of the interstate, sure, the tires are probably a hell of a lot more plentiful but seriously…..a feather? And these are the people that run our country and everything. I guess it could be considered a slippery slope, like a guy that collects his fingernails is eventually going to start collecting fingers, right? Sure………………………

  8. It’s not as if you could prove that you picked up the feather from the ground as opposed to say, poaching for an endangered species. Rare animal products are illegal for a reason.

  9. Sorry, I don’t think there’s a way to edit these postings, but @9, is it the scientologists? because that would just be too funny.

  10. Am I the only one who finds the $100,000 fine a little excessive? Maybe I simply don’t understand, being European and all, but I’d think $100,000 for one feather is frankly insane.

    1. …absolutely not! $100,000.00 for possessing a bald eagle feather is completely fucking excessive. i’m a u.s. marine and i love this country and all of the symbols that represent it…especially the bald eage…however, i’m of the opinion that if someone is lucky enough to find one, on a beach or where ever, then they should be to consider themselves extremely lucky and be able to take it home with them.
      now, a $100k for killing or trapping or otherwise fuckin’ with one…sounds like a perfect fine.

      just my thougths…

    2. highly nutty amount to pay for a fine, but makes back water retards think twice about picking one up & trying to sell or trade it!!!!

  11. I hope that posting pictures of *holding* an eagle feather isn’t going to put you in jail, Mark. One never knows, these days.

  12. or…you keep the feather and publish a fake story about how you righteously returned it back to the beach…BRILLIANT!!!

  13. It is definitely a slippery slope prevention law. I encountered a similar thing in Tanzania in the Tarangire River Park. We came across the skeleton of an elephant a ways off the main road through the park and got out to inspect it. I have a picture of myself standing on the skull. The one thing we noticed was… no tusks. Our guide informed us that the rangers take them and burn them as soon as an elephant dies. The fines/jail time for having any ivory at all there are apparently huge.

    Stiff laws like that have essentially wiped out poaching for ivory.

  14. There’s one other group that can legally possess raptor feathers – anyone want to take a guess?

    raptors? scribes? the gubmint?

  15. I guess I will return this amazing pillow I bought from an Indian medicine man. It is made of the softest feathers.

  16. I also live in the Pacific NW and have seen lots of bald eagles. The law may seem extreme, but the basis makes sense and I wish that it would be extended to all endangered/threatened species.

    Think of it in the same line as the ban on selling ivory. Sure, lots of ivory can be obtained from elephants that died from natural causes, but if we allow a market for it then people have a reason to start poaching.

    “Take only pictures; leave only footprints indeed…”
    Yes! You state this like it is a bad thing.

  17. @25 Falcon_Seven. Excellent reference, that was interesting and it resolved all my questions about eagles. The link to the National Eagle Repository ought to be put into the main story.

  18. There’s one other group that can legally possess raptor feathers – anyone want to take a guess?

    please say it’s not the clowns

  19. The issue is one of provenance – how can one prove that a particular feather was “found” instead of harvested from a live bird? The law is crystal clear, it was created that way intentionally, and it serves it’s purpose well.

    MRSHRUBBER implored:

    Am I the only one who finds the $100,000 fine a little excessive? Maybe I simply don’t understand, being European and all, but I’d think $100,000 for one feather is frankly insane.

    The fine applies equally to a piece or a whole bird, and it is to underscore the seriousness of the crime. Also, it is a maximum – the penalty can be up to $100,000, it does not have to be $100,000, it simply can’t be more than $100,000…

    Also, think of this – once upon a time, $100,000 was like $1,000,000 today – due to inflation the maximum penalty has been effectively going down each year…

  20. The only others legally able to possess raptor feathers are licensed rehabilitators and falconers.

    The old feathers are to be used for repairing broken feathers on live birds, a process known as imping.

  21. re: the comparison to ivory.

    I understand what you are saying, but ivory tusks don’t just fall off of elephants all the time while the elephants are still healthy. There is a difference.

  22. Clearly this law is intended to give law enforcement something to charge someone with if they find a poacher with a bag full of feathers. If someone shoots a bird, plucks off the valuable feathers, and ditches the carcass, law enforcement needs a law that allows them to prosecute without a body, so ‘parts or feathers’ will have to do. In reality, I doubt anything would have happened if he’d taken the feather home, it’s not like he’d get frisked at the trailhead. But practicing a ‘leave no trace’ ethos would require him to leave it so the next person to some along could be equally amazed to find a bald eagle feather. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

  23. Do you think that it is an enforced law. Such as in England they have a law against sneezing in parliament. You will have your head chopped off for that. That is an old silly law and I don’t believe that it is enforced.

  24. @gerlaine

    I have little doubt it’s an enforced law–if you’re caught. Consider that the bald eagle is the symbol of the US and was near extinction in the ’60s (only about 400 m/f pairs in the entire country).

    It’s not a “tying your horse on the wrong side of the street” sort of law.

  25. Reminds me of the fellow who fell down an ocean cliff in southern California and was stranded for over two weeks before being found. When boaters finally spotted him and alerted the authorities they caught him with a half-eaten condor.

    Of course he was charged with killing and possessing an endangered species and had to go to court for such a serious offense. Once there he pleaded with the judge, recounting his terrible ordeal and insisting that it was only by eating the endangered bird that he was able to survive.

    The judge agreed and ruled that he should be acquitted of all charges.

    Afterwards as he was leaving the Federal Courthouse he was mobbed by reporters.

    “Sir, since you are among the only people to have ever eaten a condor, can you tell us what it tasted like?” asked one reporter, shoving a microphone forward.

    “Well…” anwered the man, “I’d say it’s flavor was sort of a cross between that of a Bald Eagle and a Spotted Owl.”

  26. The bottom feather looks too pointed on it’s tip to be a bald eagle. Bald eagle feathers are more square toward the tips…

  27. haha, #35. Must admit you had more going until the end. :P

    In regards to the law: yes its harsh, but I too feel its necesary.

    If there are two things Americans have demonstrated they are very good at, its hunting things to extinction, and being greedy. Thus, harsh, even overly harsh, protective laws are in some cases necesary.

  28. OK, see…we get all this land here, and oh yeah, over there too. But you guys get to keep all the eagle feathers to yourself. Fair? Excellent, btw, we will even throw in these blankets, feel free to share amongst yourselves!

  29. @34 There may be only 400 m/f pairs in the United States, but up here in Canada there are a LOT more of them. Americans may not know this, but they have a very, very, very small percentage of these birds in their country.

    Up here in Canada (BC) there is a rafting toor that lasts about 3 hours. During those 3 hours, they guarantee you will see thousands of bald eagles. I have been on this tour twice and I can tell you they are neither kidding nor have they “culled” the eagles to the area.

  30. Xeni:
    Loads of eagles in the area… very,very few vultures in the vicinity, they avoid the windy coast line prefer warmer inland thermals.
    Two nesting pairs of bald eagles adjacent to the site, many in the surrounding area.
    White pin feathers toward bottom is the give away as well as the quill size. Turkey Vultures are BIG birds but a bit less robust.

    #8 yep!

    #9 other sources agree with me.

    #18 I don’t have a spare $100k…I left it behind.

    #19 Exactly !

    #23 no scarcasim intended, $100K is a large sum… indeed!

    #26 good idea but my initial missive was just a letter to friends not a primer.

    #32 (my fave response) Thank-you..that’s what I thought too.

  31. Don’t pick up feathers in the US. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 prohibits possession of feathers of migratory birds.

    “The Act covers the great majority (83%) of all native birds found in the U.S. Many of the species not covered by the Act are covered by the Endangered Species Act , other Federal laws, or state laws, many of which are as stringent as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act . In the lower 48 states, all species except the house sparrow, feral pigeon, common starling, and non-migratory game birds like pheasants, gray partridge, and sage grouse, are protected.”

  32. During law school, I spent a semester as an extern for a Federal District Judge. One of the other Judges at the court was on leave, and we occupied his chambers while my Judge’s chambers were being renovated. The absent Judge had in the library of his chambers….a stuffed and mounted Bald Eagle. I am not entirely sure about how it was acquired– I know that it had been at the center of some dispute (most likely something akin to the crime outlined above), and it eventually came into the possession of the Judge (or perhaps, more accurately, the courthouse).

    I can’t be sure if it had been hunted or had expired from natural causes, but good heavens, what a majestic beast it was.

  33. There’s one other group that can legally possess raptor feathers – anyone want to take a guess?

    oo! fletchers?

    1. The bald eagle is no longer endangered, but it is the national bird of the US of A, so back off Canucks. You don’t hear us carrying on about how many maple trees we have down here.

      Also, this is making me feel very weird about the red-shouldered hawk tail feather that I use to clean my keyboard.

  34. just don’t try driving across a border with one hanging from your rear-view mirror. Even if it is part of a dream-catcher.

  35. I once heard on the eagle feather argument made that the Native exemption is a violation of the equal protection clause of the US constitution. The response was that it is a backhanded acknowledgement of the US illegally occupying Native lands, they deserve FAR MORE than just equal protection.

  36. While keeping eagles do have a special law protecting them, it’s actually illegal to keep almost any bird feathers, egg shells, or other parts. The Migratory Birds Treaty Act, which is really just a way of referring to a series of treaties between the United States, Canada, Britain, Soviet Union, Mexico and others, protects the parts of almost all birds, and those not covered by it are usually covered by the Endangered Species Act.

    You may only have feathers of game birds (assuming you also have a hunting license), domesticated birds (chickes, turkeys, etc), or introduced species (such as starlings and house sparrows). There are exemptions for approved scientific, rehabilitation and religious use.

    So if you want to show your child how cool a bluejay feather is, make sure not to take it home with you.

    As a small child, I was a feather enthusiast and collected feathers. While I knew enough not to collect raptor feathers, I never imagined my feather collecting was breaking international treaties.

    I understand the reason for it. The Carolina parakeet and other extinct species are testaments to what happens when feathers become commodities. The law seems a bit dated now.

    “Conservation” is no longer synonymous with killing things as it was to Audubon and Roosevelt, and women rarely wear hats with whole birds pinned to them like they used to. But we’ve seen what a mess deregulation has caused in banking, energy, and everywhere else, so I’m not going to jump the gun on deregulating feathers.

  37. #47 Now that IS funny!
    We can still cut down maple trees! LOL

    British Columbia has loads of lodges with stuffed Bald Eagles over the fire place.

    We put maple syrup on our pancakes, let’s hope our Canadian pals never legalize the McEagle Sandwich!!

  38. bald eagles are fun, when you paddle up silently underneath them (on a roost) they are invariably embarrassed that someone could sneak up on them. Those feet look like baseball gloves up close.

  39. Antinous:

    Not trying to hassle you, but I didn’t see where any Canadian said anything insulting about the states. We’re just explaining that there are a lot of eagles here.

    And it was buddy from Alaska that called the eagles “flying rats”.

    The fact is eagles like to be around water, and there is a lot of it up here. It’s a bit of a consolation for 40 below and seven and a half hours of sunlight in the winter.
    There weren’t as many of them years ago, but now they are a pretty common sight even here in the middle of the prairies (they commonly fly quite a distance from where they nest and feed).

    I have a couple of big feathers I got out on Vancouver Island which I saw fall from the bird. and land on the beach. Pretty spectacular.

  40. I think their feet look like sharp pitchforks poised to pierce a snack! So big and strong.
    No wonder handlers wear thick leather gloves when handling raptors.

  41. We can’t possess eagle feathers because they are the source of Chuck Norris’ power, duh!

  42. Speaking of sharp pitchforks… owls are exactly the same.
    One place I used to live had tons of great horned owls (the most common roadkill in the area).

    I remember getting up one morning and heading through a line of trees to the outhouse. I spooked an owl which must have perched there to sleep for the day. It whipped right past me, inches from my face. Luckily I still have my nose.

  43. #57
    I saw a huge bald eagle fly-up my driveway the other day, maybe 20 ft altitude… cool sight except that my neighbors bichon was out in the next open area.
    I mentioned it to them and they dismissed the idea.

    I still have my concerns…..

    Bichons are fed a fine diet and must taste sooo good…..With a sparrow appetizer.

  44. We have a great horned owl here who seems to regard cats as a delicacy. The aftermath is not pretty.

  45. I work on kitsap peninsula near southworth, wa. 2 months ago i saw a bald eagle sitting atop a huge pine tree about 150 feet up. it was so large that everytime it moved abit, the whole tree would tremble. It was the largest bird i have ever seen (besides a turkey vultur)! Its head was the thickness of a volleyball and twice as tall. Its body was atleast 4 feet high. I first noticed it when it had taken a huge crap and the white shit cascade caught my eye as it hit the field below the tree. I spend all day walking around the greater seattle area for my job. I have seen atleast a dozen bald eagles in the last 6 months. they are fairly common. I see them in the city too. But they were all a third the size of the kitsap eagle. Never found just a feather though, thats pretty cool! Thanks everyone for all the great comments too, it’s such a wonder to read a thread w/o psycho babbling and mean words! Oh yeah, and i actually learned something, and it was fun!

  46. Antionus:

    A friend of mine in NW Ontario told me about eagles picking up small beavers and taking them away.

    Actually when I lived in Vancouver there were stories of some kind of giant frog from the southern states which has gone native in the marsh there. I read one report about one which got a cat by the leg and was trying to pull it into the water (for what who knows? they’re vegetarian).

    But I haven’t seen birds get up to shenanigans like that. They’d be welcome in my neighbourhood; too many cats as it is.

  47. A friend of mine explained to me why owls are associated with death in some native cultures (in chinese too, they are apparently terrifying).

    Much of it is because they hunt mostly at night, and because they fly silently (their feathers have soft edges which make them so quiet).

    Actually the most common bigger birds here are pelicans, magpies and jays. We don’t see raptors in the city as often.

  48. #42: #9 is correct. The Galileo experiment was performed on Apollo 15 by Dave Scott with a falcon feather. You must be confused by the fact that the Apollo 11 lander was named “Eagle.”

  49. #30 got it right – falconers and rehabbers. And we are not allowed to have other feathers/eggs/nests – almost no one is – see #49 (and see Rosamond Purcell’s excellent Egg and Nest).

    As impressive as Bald Eagles are, someday I want to see their big brothers – Steller’s Sea Eagle.

  50. $100,000 is excessive, I understand, but the “mere pale-face” remark was a poor choice of words.

  51. The BIG brother of the eagle the harpy eagle is just massive. I believe it is the largest raptor.

    So what about owl pellets? I remember in scouts and in conversationalist camp or whatever it was called taking those apart and having the who can make a whole rat skeleton contest. We also collected feathers in the wild and in recovery cages and got to keep them. If I still have my keepsake box a bald eagle feather is in it. The guy who was the overseer was a falconer and did rehab for the animals so I guess it was ok?

    I have to admit because all the raptor (dino kind) awareness stuff when the guy mentioned the word raptor earlier the first thing to register was not the bird and I got all giggly/excited and then flet stupid. Damn the interweb!

  52. Here’s the reason for the fines (though here in Canada, I doubt it’s as much as $100k).

    The mysterious discovery of more than two dozen mutilated bald eagles in the woods of North Vancouver, British Columbia, has sparked revulsion and anger on Canada’s West Coast, which has been plagued by poaching for years.

    “You just got this horrible, horrible feeling like you’re walking into a crime scene,” said Julie Bryson-McElwee, who discovered the dead birds Wednesday while walking her dog.

    The discovery sparked disgust among animal lovers and instigated speculation about possible culprits. Indian tribes use eagle parts, including feathers and talons, across the continent for ceremonial purposes. But native leaders who were interviewed expressed disgust at the killings and resented suggestions of a native connection to the crime.

  53. Slippery slope laws only effect and punish the innocent. The crime that the Eagle Law is supposed to prevent is the killing of Eagles for the purpose of harvesting their precious parts. All that it actally manages to do is keep innocent people who find a treasure on the ground from enjoying their find. Anyone who is willing to kill and vandalize an Eagle has already made the decision to break that law and would do so regardless. This law and others like it force the trades underground where they- A)become more profitable for criminals and B)are harder to track for the authorities.

    So you’ve made it harder to enforce the real purpose of the law, helped criminals make more money for less work, and prevented law abiding citizens from enjoying the beauty of nature. Wow, great work.

    Oh yeah, and a select group of people are allowed to enjoy this feather, but not everyone. I call shenanigans on you, law!

  54. hairloss, nature is SO much more enjoyable when you leave it there for us peons to enjoy too.

    Also, the crime the law prevents is spelled out in the law.

    But you know that.

  55. A buddy from way back was fined $400 by the Fish and Wildlife Service for possession of migratory bird feathers. They were from a bluejay! The outdoors-loving guy had found the feathers in his own backyard, thought they were cool and stuck them in the windshield visor of his truck. He got hassled by the feds when he was parked at a fishing hole. He managed to get the fine dropped in federal court, thanks to a nice pro bono lawyer — produce the carcass or else — but what a hassle. He never touched a bird feather again. The thought of eagle feathers would probably cause the guy a heart attack.

  56. So if you want to show your child how cool a bluejay feather is, make sure not to take it home with you.

    I seem to be in a substantial minority here, but when my children and I find things like pretty blue feathers, we take them home. It’s part of a general educational strategy called, alternatively, “getting to know about nature” or “learning that nature is really cool” or “isn’t this more fun than sitting in front of a computer?” Heck, we even make things out of them some times, in something known as an “art project.”

    If this makes me a criminal, so be it. I prefer a course of reasonable action over slavish devotion to the law. And before someone asks “what if everyone did this?” let me answer: the world would be a more reasonable and just place, even if laws are broken.

  57. I see someone else has mentioned migratory bird feathers. That was a shock to me when I learned of it. That means most of our kids are crooks (ever know a kid who doesn’t try to collect feathers at some point in time?). This is just another example of a stupid law that rose from good intentions. Some people wanted to stop other people from hunting eagles and other migratory birds, but the end result is the criminalization of a common citizen who finds a feather on the ground. “Wait,” you say, “someone will shoot a bird and then claim they picked up the feather from the ground.” Sure. Some might, but most jurisdictions have laws against illegal hunting, and there is a big difference between hunting and collecting specimens from the forest floor or the beach.

  58. #1: Y r mrn. Tht s ll.

    #8: Indeed: our dumps here in BC are swarming with them too. Most of my best shots of eagles are taken at local dumps. They key is to get the shot without the garbage- that’s how the money’s made.

    #47: I’m sorry- MAPLE TREES? WTF? Just because we have a Maple leaf on our flag doesn’t mean we give two hoots about the trees. Now our beavers- THAT’S serious business, my friend. We’re gonna get the WTO to slap an injunction on beaver jokes pretty soon if you guys don’t stop all this nonsense!

    But seriously, the most amusing part of this whole story is the fact that the Bald Eagle is, indeed, a scavenger, not the ‘noble’ bird it’s made out to be. They eat GARBAGE, folks. And dead, stinky things. Get over it. Although sometimes, they like to eat live things, like Harbour Seals. Yes, those cute, furry critters our friends at PETA are so worked up about. The eagles slaughter them like…animals, I guess. Also, I am still pissed off because an eagle dropped a big rotten salmon on my car one day as I drove to work. Seriously- do you have any idea how hard it is to get dried-out fish bits off your car? NOT fun.

    I suppose if the States were ever to invade and annex Canada, the new national animal would have to be the Bald Beaver, eh?

    #74: Sell it on eBay. Or send it to me to add to my collection. Either one.

  59. Takuan,

    I have a friend who does piano repair. He regularly has to rip vintage ivory keys off of pianos and replace them with plastic – if an instrument is being imported, or sold under conditions that run into Canada’s ivory ban.

    He has a drawerfull of the stuff. Fortunately it does not all go to waste. He knows someone who does skrimshaw and uses it to make art – which of course cannot be sold or moved over any border.


    Actually I agree with #1. The law is pretty clear, even if a lot of innocents get caught up in it (and of course a lot of people break it). But the law is there to be used when necessary.

    And for the record I have crossed the border with a hawk feather (european) which the Canadian border guard picked up, examined and let pass without any questions. So the law is not always applied.

    But I’m actually posting regarding your comment about beavers. I have read in recent years about the U.K. wanting to re-introduce the beaver, which I find hilarious.
    In case they forgot why they were eradicated there in the first place, they should ask any Canadian conservation officer how much time they spend blowing up beaver dams.
    I remember one time I treeplanted in NW Ontario and saw a beaver dam that stretched alongside the road for over 1.5 km – buttressed six feet high in between every tree.
    We have enough trouble here battling beavers that flood land to make their homes. I wonder where those well-intentioned Britons imagine they are going to live.

  61. Holy crap. I’ve got a baby bald eagle feather framed and mounted on my bedroom wall. $100K?

    It was presented to me at birth by the Cherokee nation. I wonder where that leaves me.

  62. @82: yes, but it must be in a patriotic container.

    re: inherited ivory: yeh, but it’s already in the form of art, some quite lovely (and some tourist crap). It’s awkward to handle, like human remains of uncertain provenance. I suppose I’ll pass it along so one day a child can touch something forever gone.

    I usually leave eagle feathers stuck in stumps and rock crevices for kids to find.

  63. Oh yeah, and a select group of people are allowed to enjoy this feather, but not everyone. I call shenanigans on you, law!

    Cry me a river of broken treaties pale-face.

  64. This is nerdy – but deal with it. It was David Scott on Apollo 15, the fourth landing, who performed this experiment. I’m paid to know these things.

  65. Jesus Christ, I’m a federal offender!! I need some advice, people!

    I’m a registered member of an officially recognized Canadian tribe, now living in California. I received a huge beautiful bald eagle tail feather from my dad upon graduation from high school, when I left the “nest” to attend college in the states.

    Since then, I’ve received probably a half-dozen more from relatives at significant moments in my life (marriage, birth of my children).

    Most of them are tied (not sure the technical name for it, but it’s when you boil the quill and cut a notch out of it so you can fold it inside itself to make a loop for hanging. In our case, we also wrap it with moosehide and beads, etc.) So the government is dreaming if they think I’m gonna send my feathers in to the eagle repository and order new generic ones. THESE feathers, not just ANY feathers, are significant to me.

    But if I’m reading the rules right, I would have turn over all eagle parts in my possession, get a permit, then order new ones from the government. Eff that.

    So, to those who know: what should I do? I’m thinking smuggle them back to Canada on my next car trip up and leave them there for safekeeping. Or do I hold on to them and go all Ruby Ridge if anybody ever busts me for them?

    P.S. Shit, what about Grizzly Bear claws? I have a few of those, too!


  66. This has been the law pretty much since bald eagles became protected. Is this really news to Americans?

  67. #29 I am Omaha and I have my permit to possess eagle parts. The story in the Denver Post sounds like a proper native disposal of a carcass to me. The perpetrator was probably a native who took apart the carcass he received legally. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t always use every part of every carcass. If it were my eagle (and I have one in my freezer that I need to take apart) I would take the parts I couldn’t use, all of them, bundle them and place them in a high or sacred place on my reservation, probably a tree nest. I would due this because it would be a sacrilege for me to just throw them away. The other option is to burn them, but the smell is awful. It would be hilarious to find that the person who deposited the carcass did so legally. Would they still get the reward if they turned themselves in?

    #36 The feather is a secondary wing feather. Secondaries all have that distinctive narrowing at the end. It’s only the primaries that are full all the way.

    As an Omaha man I view the right to possess birds as similar to land use rights. You can’t just barge in here and tell me I can’t practice my religion or practice survival because the tools of my trade are “special” to you. They were freakin’ special to me first.

  68. There is another group who is allowed to possess eagle feathers. When you first plead before the Supreme Court (of US) you are presented an Eagle Feather. Friggin lawyers…

  69. Like I’d do with any other interesting item I come across, I’d have kept the feather.
    I have a number of bird feathers I’ve found over the years and have no intention of getting rid of any of them.

    Like my guns, they’ll have to take them.

  70. This reminds me of the USPS policy with “free” priority mail boxes. They can’t effectively prevent every eagle from being killed, so they try to police it on the other end, assuming that everyone possessing the feathers has killed an eagle. The post office gives away “free” boxes to be used only by people using them for “priority mail” rate. They don’t care who takes them, but anyone who tries to use or re-use the boxes at some cheaper rate is rejected, on the assumption that you misappropriated the boxes. So you receive dozens of priority mail boxes and you can’t reuse them (good for the environment, I hear) for shipping unless you’re also shipping at priority mail rate. Because they can’t possibly police the half-assed “free” boxes upfront when people are taking them.

    I was once turned away from the office for this reason when I tried to re-use their box. I went home, cut the box open at the seams, turned it inside out and took it back to the post office. Later one of the clerks told me they were thinking of printing “PRIORITY MAIL” all over the insides of the boxes to keep people from doing that.

    Sorry, it’s a pet peeve I have. Bummer about the eagle feathers too.

  71. Thanks for such a lovely comment thread, people. It’s been a while since I’ve actually enjoyed reading the comments of an article.

    I live on a marsh on the East Coast of Canada where there are also lots of raptors and my childhood was spent with my dad’s huge binoculars and an old Audubon identifying them all. Slippery slope laws are there for a reason, especially considering that in the future as more species become diminished animal parts may increase in demand once again. (Except for deer, which I have no qualms about killing. Worse than rodents, huge population explosion in recent years.)

  72. What would happen if you brought live deer into the inner city parks? Not so they could be hunted, but so that they could just live in the parks and eat the plants and whatnot. You could pay teenagers to put out feed for them, and the deer could just kind of hang out. Hmmmm, I’m sure there are good reasons why it wouldn’t work, but it would be so cool to see deer in the city…

  73. Oh dear. I wonder why they would do that? Male bonding ritual, hormonal imbalance, pure sadistic pleasure? Lack of job opportunities? Drug addiction? Bad home life?

    I would hope that growing up in proximity to parks full of nature and wildlife would prevent this sort of behavior… I guess not.

  74. The deadliest animal in North America (besides drunk people) is the white tail deer.
    More folks are killed in crashes with deer than any other animal.

    States with the most deer hits: 1. Pennsylvania 2. Michigan 3. Illinois 4. Ohio 5. Georgia 6. Minnesota 7. Virginia 8. Indiana

    Forget about rattle snakes and black widows….watch out for Bambi!!

  75. why do little boys torture and kill small animals?
    Because they are primates. When teenagers do it it is failure of primate society. Especially in a “developed” country.

  76. I believe that “400 m/f pairs” figure was for the lower 48. One reason they didn’t die out completely is there were still thousands of them in Alaska (not to mention Canada).

    If these feathers are the wrong shape for eagle could they be condor? They look pretty big for plain old vulture.

  77. Winnipeg, the city I grew up in, has a deer population of 200 or so. They have access to the centre of town through a huge park and two rivers.

    One night the cops got called to a break-in at a large department store in the very centre of town. THey assumed a burgler had gone in through a window, until they found hair on the glass. A deer had been spooked by a traffic light and jumped through the glass. There were later reports of it running north.

    Here’s today’s paper:

    And I know they can be dangerous. I once had a broken fanbelt after dark just north of town.
    I had my head under the hood when I head a splat, a scream, and sqealing tires. I was almost hit by a flying deer than someone had run into. Terrible mess.

    Deer aren’t the only animals around there either. One night I came home and almost sat on what I thought was a chair in my back yard. It was a porcupine with its quills up.

    Winnipeg is a city of 700,000, BTW.

  78. over 100 replies and not a single “That’s racist!” amongst them. Fark is more fun than you guys.

  79. I live in the northwestern part of the US and am an avide fishermen who finds his spirtaul center in the outdoors. Now I don’t wish to sound all Hippie or New Age but the truth be told I have had many awakinings while fishing. The most recent one was a few days ago on one of the local lakes as I was fishing. I sat watching 10 or 12 Eagles flying over the lake and I thought how I would like a feather to go with all those I have gathered across the country in my life time. A short time later I heard the sound of something hitting the gravel behind me. I found a lager feather like the one shown here on the ground behind my seat. At that moment I felt so connected to the enviroment and truely at peace with all. I really beleave I have been granted a great gift buy nature and of course brought it home with me. Now I am finding out that the possesion of this gift could cost me thousands of dollars and that because I am not on some roll or roster. And I did not ask the goveronment for the gift nature granted me. I find it truely sadding that I someone who has never killed a bird of any type might be judged as guilty as those who do for mearly excepting one of the many gifts nature has granted me. And to add to that I find that the many species of feathers I hold as momentos of the many areas I have hiked and fished are in fact Illeagle for me to posess. I now find myself in a dilemma as to weather to keep that which was gifted me by Nature or bow to the laws of man. This is the first time I have found the my spirtuality is in conflict with the law and do not know how I will deal with it.

  80. #110
    No condors in Seattle (vultures stay farther inland) and there are 2 pairs of baldies nesting near by….

    BTW, No other bird in the coastal PNW has the bulk to support that quill.

    Those are bald eagle feathers…I’ve been a bird watcher for decades.

    Nicely put, well written.
    My dilemma exactly.

    Nothing makes you more honest that the threat of complete financial annihilation!

  81. I am Native American and yes the federal government does enforce this law. “Feds” are known to frequent powwows to see if anyone is in possession of any raptor feathers. There are alot of good imitation feathers being made, so I’m not sure how they can determine real feathers from fake ones. The fines may seem excessive, but consider all the idiots that would be out shooting eagles if the laws were not in place to protect endangered species. It is illegal for anyone that is not a Federally enrolled Native American to have raptor feathers in their possession at any time. I have seen some white chick that advertises on and on her website that Indians can send her their real eagle feathers and she will “work” on them. She must be wanting some big fines and a jail sentence. She even has pictures on her site of real eagle feathers that some people apparently were stupid enough to send her. She has been reported by several people, so I’m sure they are keeping a close watch on her. What an idiot – making tons of money off of Native American culture too.

  82. First: Instead of guessing and assuming, try reading the actual federal statute (it’s posted below and took me less than 45 seconds to find online). It’s not a $100,000 penalty, it’s $5,000 for the first offense, $10,000 for the second.

    Second: Possession is NOT limited to American Indians. Licensed falconers, accredited museums, wildlife rehabilitators, licensed environmental educators, and anyone(Indian or not) with either the proper licensure or who possesses feathers proven to have been acquired prior to the federal legislation, can legally possess protected species. I know this because I am one of those people, and I’m not an Indian. How else do you suppose that every natural history museum, state park, national park, and VFW hall in the country has protected species in its possession? Come on people, the Code of Federal Regulations is not nearly the governmental conspiracy that you think it is.

    § 668. Bald and golden eagles
    (a) Prohibited acts; criminal penalties

    Whoever, within the United States or any place subject to the jurisdiction thereof, without being permitted to do so as provided in this subchapter, shall knowingly, or with wanton disregard for the consequences of his act take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or in any manner, any bald eagle commonly known as the American eagle, or any golden eagle, alive or dead, or any part, nest, or egg thereof of the foregoing eagles, or whoever violates any permit or regulation issued pursuant to this subchapter, shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than one year or both: Provided, That in the case of a second or subsequent conviction for a violation of this section committed after October 23, 1972, such person shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both: Provided further, That the commission of each taking or other act prohibited by this section with respect to a bald or golden eagle shall constitute a separate violation of this section: Provided further, That one-half of any such fine, but not to exceed $2,500, shall be paid to the person or persons giving information which leads to conviction: Provided further, That nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit possession or transportation of any bald eagle, alive or dead, or any part, nest, or egg thereof, lawfully taken prior to June 8, 1940, and that nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit possession or transportation of any golden eagle, alive or dead, or any part, nest, or egg thereof, lawfully taken prior to the addition to this subchapter of the provisions relating to preservation of the golden eagle.

  83. an ojibway friend recently gave me a feather for helping him get through college…it originally came from his tribal office in minnesota and until stumbling across this thread i didn’t give it a thought…i’m now questioning my possession of this single feather. it was a gift sanctioned by the tribe…

    any help?

    1. If you’re not using it to snort coke off your child porn collection, I wouldn’t worry about it. Just don’t give them probable cause.

  84. Aye, Homer Alaska. Got to live there over a year, had a local that was nicknamed by the community as the Eagle Lady, as she would defy the police and feed them year round. It’s too bad that she died late last year..
    On a sidenote Bald Eagles are seriously Albino Buzzards, they sit at the dump, counted up to 27 while delivering garbage. They are cool birds, but the seagulls and crows chase them away for food and seating area. Their not as magnificent as one thinks after watching them day in day out.

    @61 I believe there is now a video out on Youtube, but upon vacation to Haines AK, had a bald eagle in a tree, got to communicate with it (litterly I’d squak at it and it would squak back.) Shortly after our chat it swept down and took this annoying as all hell yappy miniture dog. (Was either a Yorkie or a Chihuahua.) The wife of the couple gasped and bmroke down, while the Husband cheered.

  85. If someone was to enherit a stuffed golden eagle that was taxidermied back in the 1950’s how do they get a permit to own it.

  86. and if u find one???? what do just let it sit there? and how would the cops find out? where i live there are a bunch of eagles and i know a spot where u can find there feathers i myself do not have any but it doesnt make any sense if u FIND one u shoud be able to keep it! cuz ur not hurting the bird at all

  87. i have lived in vancouver for 39 years..i was born here..i am of polish and ukrainian decent…over the years i grew up with many native canadians..iv been to sweats and have held the eagle feather to talk..iv shared tabacco with elders..iv heard many and read many of ledgend..i think i became one with mother earth in the rockies of british columbia always thanking the why should i not be able to own a eagle feather..i will be a elder of this land soon enough with my own story and legend to pass canada dont make me put on my war paint about this subject..if i find a eagle feather i should be able to take it to my local 15 min away..have a native elder document my find give me a licence for it..DONE..NOW THIS FEATHER WOULD BE LICENCED TO ME..with a option of inherence to my next of kin..

  88. Anybody who thinks that a fine of $ 100,000 and a year in prison is too much, should come to Bolivia and see the hundreds and thousands of feathers used in Carneval.
    Dead parrots are sold as fetish on the markets.
    All this can be done without any consequence….no fine, no prison time.
    It is justified with poverty.
    I think that poverty is the consequence not the cause.
    It is easier to kill a bird than building a mercedes.

    Thanks for the article! Great discussion!

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