the vagueness of wildlife parts posession laws is so annoying sometimes

like at my community college i got lost on the way to the library and was awestruck at how many atala butterflies i found

some were dead so i took them home and researched them. theyre threatened, but not on the florida fish and wildlife list as protected. you can kill them apparently. so i assume theyre ok to keep if theyre ok to kill but i always get panicky about these things. like my mom picks up a blue jay feather and im like OMG THE FEDS ARE COMING lmao

i also want to get coonties so i can have an incredible colony of atalas too but when the die, like, could i ship them to people? or is that a no? nothing ive seen says yes or no, nothing is simple

I’ve sat through a few lectures on this topic through my master naturalist chapter, so I might have a bit more insight on this.

For those not in the know, it is illegal to take, keep, or sell the feathers of any bird covered by the migratory bird act. The exceptions are invasive species and “pest” species (grackles and cowbirds are the examples in Texas). You can have the feathers of game birds (ducks, pheasants, etc) if you have a hunting license. It is a federal offense to sell any feathers besides the exceptions. And it’s also illegal to collect feathers for personal use. If you are an educator, you can get a permit that allows you to possess things like feathers for educational purposes. My chapter has a permit, so we can have feathers as part of our outreach materials.

This may seem over-the-top and irrational, but it’s not. The Migratory Bird Act, which is the law that makes feather possession and sale illegal, was developed because fashion trends were driving birds to extinction. Hats back in the day were often heavily feathered. Imagine selling millions of hats that require tail feathers from three individual birds each. We had already lost some bird species, and we came very close to losing more. So they needed to ban the killing of all non-game birds to protect them.

But how do you enforce a law like that? Hat makers could easily say, “Oh, I found these birds already dead!” How do you prove they’re lying? The answer: make the mere posession of the feathers a crime. They can’t make that excuse any more.

The law was not made to punish or threaten normal, everyday people walking through the woods. If a kid sees a cool feather on the ground and takes it home, the FBI isn’t going to come after them. So even though it’s illegal, personal possession isn’t really enforced, so you don’t need to worry if you have feathers already.

That said: the Fish and Wildlife Service definitely do enforce this law. They spend a lot of their time searching ebay and etsy for feathers. Kids, DO NOT SELL FEATHERS. Especially don’t sell them online. And this isn’t just about selling. Do not post on here saying you have feathers you can send for free. Because for all they know, you’re trading money offline. Just do not mess with feathers.

Regarding maybe/maybe not protected species of insects, I can’t really say. But that would be a qood question to ask the Fish and Wildlife Service! I believe they would be in charge of enforcing any regulations, so they could help you figure out what those regulations are. If you don’t have luck there, I have the contact info for the guy in charge of regulating imports/exports of insects. I’d need to dig up his info, though. I talked to him before shipping stick insect eggs to Europe.

August 12, 2018