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July 17, 2007

Eagle feather laws still in place

Although the bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list last month, the laws regulating the possession of the bird’s feathers are still in place.

Both the bald and the golden eagle are still protected by the federal act that bears their names: the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act – also known as the “Eagle Act” – as well as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The Eagle Act was passed in 1940, and prohibits the “take; possession; sale; purchase; barter; offer to sell, purchase, or barter; transport, export or import, of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless allowed by permit.”

Eagle feathers, however, have had spiritual significance to Indian tribes long before the federal government began passing acts. So in the 1970s, the National Eagle Repository was established to provide feathers of bald and golden eagles to tribal members for ceremonial purposes.

“Legally, you have to apply for eagle feathers through the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife,” said Kelly Anquoe, a member of the Kiowa tribe who is certified to possess eagle feathers.

“You can apply for the feathers, or you can apply for an entire eagle. I applied for an entire eagle, and it came in a box about 3-1/2 feet long, with the eagle on ice.”

To apply for an eagle, or the feathers thereof, a person must have a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood, and be a registered member of a federally recognized tribe.

Eagle feather owners also have to have the certification they receive from the federal wildlife service when they receive their eagle or feathers.

The eagle carcasses are stored at the National Eagle Repository in Colorado, and are provided by state, federal, and tribal agencies that find dead eagles.

Orders are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, and waiting periods can vary from approximately three months for miscellaneous feathers to approximately four years for a complete carcass of the most sought-after eagle – an immature golden eagle.

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