Animal Parts Laws

It would be nice if we could have the remains of any animal we wanted, right? Wandering through the woods, and finding a gorgeous Steller’s jay that just died, or finding a gray whale vertebrae in an odd little antique shop–these are just two of the situations where it’s best to leave it be. Thanks to human destruction of wildlife habitat, overhunting and other pressures, many species are endangered, some critically so. We know of at least 500 species of animal, plant, fungus and other life form that we have caused to go extinct in the last century, and there are estimates that thousands more have disappeared without us ever identifying them.

If we are to be responsible Vultures, then it’s important for us to do our best to abide by the laws that have been put in place to protect the wildlife that remains. Some seem very strict; the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, for example, prohibits the possession of even molted feathers of most wild birds in the U.S. However, that’s because at the beginning of the 20th century many bird species were threatened or endangered due to overhunting for food and feathers. We lost the passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet and nearly lost the great egret, among others. The strictness of the law is to prevent that from ever happening again.

A few years ago I decided to compile an online collection of laws related to collecting and trading in animal parts. It is by far the most popular section of my primary website, and I’m pleased to see so many people using it. I’m not a legal professional; I just provide the information to make other people’s research a bit easier. When in doubt, contact your local fish and game authority.