Arizona Man Faces Big Fine Over Feathers

December 13, 2012

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
The Golden Eagle is one of many birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- An Arizona man pleaded guilty this week to selling golden eagle feathers and trafficking other bird parts. The birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Patrick Scott, 46, lives in Tuba City on the Navajo Nation. According to his plea agreement, he used the Internet to illegally sell a golden eagle fan for $950. An undercover officer exchanged emails with Scott and eventually purchased the feathers for $900. Investigators say Scott has a history of buying and selling other protected bird parts, from species including bald eagle and red-tailed hawk.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement it "will not tolerate the commercial exploitation of federally protected birds, which are important not only as protected species but also as sacred elements of the religious and cultural traditions of many Native Americans.”

The federal government recently published a policy to clarify that while the use of migratory bird feathers is allowed for religious or cultural purposes by members of federally recognized tribes, it remains illegal to buy, sell, or trade them.

Scott faces up to two years in jail and a possible $250,000 fine.