In Search of an Eagle Feather

Bald Eagle
Bald eagle in flight in Mono County. CDFW photo.

Question: I am in search of an eagle feather for my grandson’s graduation. Any information you can provide will be greatly appreciated. A’ho! (Cheryl W.)

Answer: Virtually all birds — including carcasses, feathers, and other parts, as well as nests (except non-native) — are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Eagles are also protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Act. This means members of the public are prohibited from possessing these items, except by permit.

There is an exception under the Eagle Act, allowing Native Americans to acquire eagle parts and feathers. If you are an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe, you can apply for parts (including feathers) through the USFWS National Eagle Repository.

Steel shot for ducks?

Question: Since all lead shot has now been outlawed within the state of California, can the steel shot now being manufactured and designated for upland game (dove, quail and pheasant) now be used for waterfowl as well? There should be no difference any more, correct? It should all be steel shot. For example, if I purchase No. 4 pheasant loads, can I also use them for waterfowl? (Charlie H.)

Answer: Any steel shot now legal for upland game in California is technically also legal for waterfowl, although most of it wouldn’t be a good choice for waterfowl. Small game loads have smaller shot size and less powder, so you’re likely to cripple ducks if you use it. Steel pheasant loads are similar in shot size and powder charge and would be fine for ducks.

Possession of Gulf Grouper or Broomtail Grouper caught in Mexico?

Question: This is something that comes up all the time with the guys I fish with in Baja. Is there some kind of way – say, a declaration form or something – in which anglers can legally bring Gulf Grouper or Broomtail Grouper legally taken in Baja into California? I have seen these fish brought back on long-range fishing boats out of San Diego. I am surprised these businesses would break the law, although it happens. The regulations seem clear to me: “May not be taken or possessed.” It’s the same wording prohibiting the take or possession of Garibaldi. (Chad C.)

Answer: You are correct. The California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.12 expressly prohibits the take or possession of Gulf Grouper or Broomtail Grouper in California – even if legally caught in Mexico. Should you see any long-range boats in California in possession of either of these species, you can report them anonymously to CalTIP at 1-888-334-CalTIP (1-888-334-2258) or by texting the tip to 847411.

These species are very rare in California waters today. Their protections date to the 1950s, when an expatriate population of these large fish were living off the La Jolla Cove area of San Diego and were very popular with divers. Back in the 1950s, sport fishing fleets were mostly incapable of venturing all the way into Mexican waters from California ports to fish as easily and comfortably as they can do today so it was easier at the time to ban any possession or importation of the fish.

Wild game cookoff?

Question: I am a member of a non-profit group that’s considering a “Wild Game Cookoff” where hunters and/or cooks would bring wild game to cook and sell to the public. Tickets would be sold and people could taste dishes prepared at the event. There would be judging and awards for the best dishes. I am concerned that distributing or selling any wild game caught by recreational hunters might be against Fish and Game regulations. Could you advise us as to the legality of such an event? (Dwain)

Answer: Thank you for asking about this before holding your event! You are correct that it is not legal to buy, sell or barter game meat. Therefore, using sport-caught wild game and/or fish for a fundraiser event where people are required to purchase a ticket to participate would not be legal. The public would, in effect, be “purchasing” sport-caught game at your event. Separating the fundraising from the distribution or tasting of the wild game meat dishes would be allowed. For example, you may consider asking for donations, charging for parking or charging to vote on a favorite dish, while allowing the wild game meat to be tasted by all attendees for free. Also keep in mind that the recreational hunters and anglers who participate must also donate the meat they provide and cannot accept monetary compensation from the non-profit, including award checks for winning the contest. Your event sounds like it could be a lot of fun and a great way to introduce people to some great-tasting wild game.

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