DID YOU KNOW THIS IS ILLEGAL?

By Cheryl Conley, TWRC Wildlife Center

Little did Ernesto Pulido know that he was breaking the law when he disturbed the nests of egrets and black-crowned night herons while trimming trees for the U.S. Postal Service in 2014. He was charged with a misdemeanor violation of the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and because he showed remorse, was only fined $3,000 to cover the cost of rehabilitating the injured baby birds. He could have been fined $15,000 and faced six months in jail.

Most people are totally unaware of the Act and that it is one of the oldest wildlife protection laws on the books. Simply stated it’s a law that protects birds from people. In 1916 the United States entered into a treaty with Great Britain (acting on behalf of Canada) whereby the two countries agree to end the hunting of insect-eating birds and established hunting seasons for game birds. In order to implement the treaty, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed in 1918 by Congress which makes it illegal to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill,” or “sell” a migratory bird or any of its parts, including nests, eggs, and feathers except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations. The Act mostly came about because birds were needlessly being killed for their feathers which made great fashion accessories. Entire birds were stuffed and attached to the tops of hats. Birds were also being served in restaurants.

In 1936, the USA signed a similar treaty with Mexico. Japan and the Soviet Union were added in the 1970s. !n 1972 an amendment to the Act added protection for an additional 32 families of birds including eagles, hawks, owls and corvids. Since then more species have been added to include almost every native species in the USA with a few exceptions like the House Sparrow, the European Starling and the domestic pigeon. Some of the birds don’t actually migrate but are still protected under this Act. For a complete listing of protected birds just enter “MBTA List” in your browser and it will pull up the list from the US Fish and Wildlife website.

It wasn’t until 2013 that the Department of Justice enforced the Act for the first time by penalizing a wind farmer for killing Golden Eagles and other birds at two sites in Wyoming. The farmer was fined $1 million. A second wind farmer was penalized a year later and fined $2.5 million.

So what does all of this mean to you? Let’s say a bird builds a nest above your front door and drops poop everywhere. Can you remove the nest? NO—it’s illegal. Can my son take bird eggs to school for show and tell? NO—it’s illegal. We collect bird feathers. Is this okay? NO—it’s illegal. I found a  nest and I brought it in the house. ILLEGAL. We found a dead Blue Jay and we want to have it “stuffed” for display. Guess what? ILLEGAL. We live on a farm and randomly shoot birds for fun. Is this legal? NO, NO, NO. In July 2007, a man was sentenced to six months in a federal halfway house, five years probation with no contact with firearms, and a fine of a $65,000 fine for killing protected birds on his property.

Although this law may seem a little silly to the average person, it does serve a purpose. It reminds us that we must learn to live in harmony with wildlife and not purposely disrupt or cause harm to other living beings.

TWRC Wildlife Center serves a great purpose as well. We help wildlife that has been injured, orphaned or displaced and return them to the wild. Your donations help us keep the doors open and allow us to provide this service to the public free of charge. Please read through our website for more information on what we do and how you can help.

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