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Don't Just Wing It When It Comes to Wild Birds

Before responding to calls about wild animals, educate yourself and your coworkers about federal, state, and local regulations

Before responding to calls about wild animals, educate yourself and your coworkers about federal, state, and local regulations

It might be a call requesting the removal of an injured sparrow from someone’s garage. It could be a plea to return a fallen baby bluebird to the safety of his nest. Or, as in the case of one shelter in the nation’s capital, the emergency could be more along the lines of some undiplomatic mockingbirds attacking passersby near the State Department.

Whatever the avian problem of the day is, the public often turns to animal care and control agencies for a solution. But unless your agency is equipped with the proper federal, state, and local permits, you may be violating the law by trying to handle migratory birds. And, regardless of your intentions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) might launch an investigation, as it did when a Washington, D.C.-area shelter intervened in the mockingbird situation.

To avoid such problems and to make sure you are complying with laws designed to protect bird species, become familiar with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This act requires that you obtain a permit from the FWS if you plan to transport, possess, house, or euthanize migratory birds. Specifically, the act reads in part:

Except as allowed by implementing regulations, this act makes it unlawful to pursue, hunt, kill, capture, possess, buy, sell, purchase, or barter any migratory bird, including the feathers or other parts, nests, eggs, or migratory bird products.

To apply for a permit in your state, contact the FWS regional office that services your area. (Visit http://www.le.fws.gov/mbmo_chart.htm to locate your regional office.) But take note that the permit allows only for the transportation, holding, housing, and possession of migratory birds; to be able to euthanize the birds when necessary, you must specifically request an additional clause in the permit that allows you to do so.

For more information about working with wildlife rehabilitators and improving your agency’s wildlife services department, click here. If you have questions or concerns about the proper and legal handling of migratory birds by shelter personnel, contact the HSUS at 202-452-1100 or send an e-mail to Kate Pullen (kpullen@hsus.org) or Pat McElroy (pmcelroy@hsus.org).

 

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