GREEN
10/15/2012 11:28 am ET Updated Oct 15, 2012

Eating Protected Birds Poses Legal Challenges

By Eli MacKinnon, Life's Little Mysteries Staff Writer:

When a white-winged dove crashed head-first into the side of his house and died on impact, Ryan Adams decided to make the best of a sad situation: a gourmet dinner.

But the Pflugerville, Texas, resident didn't realize that while he solemnly rubbed the bird with bacon grease and paprika, he was also rubbing state law enforcers the wrong way.

Though white-winged doves, a popular game bird, had gone into season in Texas 24 hours before Adams heard the thump, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department took issue with the apparently illicit means by which Adams had attained his meal, without either a gun or a license. The agency opened an investigation into his activities, according to CBS Dallas/Fort Worth, finding ample evidence on Adams' blog, where he had documented the preparation and consumption of the bird in vivid detail.

"People travel long distances and pay big bucks to hunt these birds, and one had just been dropped into my hands," Adams wrote in his blog post. "A lot of people would either bury or throw away a dead animal under these circumstances. I am not one of them."

But it turns out that Adams' pioneer mentality is in conflict with both state and federal law, the latter of which protects white-winged doves under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

"There are ways that you can legally take a dove in Texas, but because he simply scavenged the dove his possession was illegal," said Sandra Cleva, a spokeswoman for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement. "Unless it's authorized by permit or by hunting season, you cannot kill, capture, possess, buy, sell, barter — you basically can't do anything with a migratory bird, its parts or its nest."

After carrying out its investigation, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department decided Friday (Oct. 12) not to press charges against Adams, according to CBS Dallas/Fort Worth. But the question remains: What should an American do if a federally protected game bird sings its last just shy of the front porch?

"Technically I guess he should have turned it over to a game official, but he probably would not have been questioned if he had simply buried it," Cleva told Life's Little Mysteries.

Adams' chief mistake, as Cleva sees it, was posting the whole thing on the Internet.

While more than 1,000 species of birds are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, state and federal hunting laws make allowances for the killing of some of these birds under permitted circumstances and during appropriate seasons.

Laws on salvaging dead birds and roadkill vary by state. In Alaska, state wildlife troopers maintain a list of approved food banks, churches and individuals who have asked to be notified when a moose is killed in an auto collision.

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