In recognition of the significance of eagle feathers to Native Americans, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established the National Eagle Repository in the early 1970's to provide Native Americans with the feathers of golden and bald eagles needed for ceremonial purposes. The National Eagle Repository is located at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Denver, Colorado.
The Repository serves as a collection point for dead eagles. Most of the dead golden and bald eagles received have been salvaged by State and Federal wildlife personnel. Many of these birds have died as a result of electrocution, vehicle collisions, unlawful shooting and trapping, or from natural causes. When eagles are received at the Repository, the condition of each eagle and its feathers is noted, and the species and age is recorded. If part of the bird is missing, damaged or broken, FWS staff may add replacement parts from another bird to make it complete. The bird is then stored in a freezer until it is ready to be shipped to the recipient, usually within 3-5 days.
Permits to obtain eagles or eagle parts are issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Only enrolled members of a Federally recognized tribe can obtain a permit. The permit authorizes the recipient to receive and possess eagle feathers from the Repository for religious purposes. The following must be presented when applying for an eagle possession permit:
- A completed application obtained from your nearest FWS Regional Office
- Certification of tribal enrollment from the Bureau of Indian Affairs
On the application, you must specify whether you want a golden or bald eagle, a mature or immature bird, a whole bird or specific parts, or have no preference. You must provide a current telephone number so the Repository staff can contact you by telephone when your order is ready to ship. Any changes to your address and/or telephone number must be submitted to your local FWS Regional Office to keep your file updated.
Because of the large demand and limited supply, each applicant can apply for only one whole eagle or specific parts equivalent to one bird (i.e., two wings, one tail, two talons) at a time. Once your request has been filled, you may reapply to receive another eagle. Orders are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Currently, there are over 4,000 people on the waiting list for approximately 900 eagles the Repository receives each year. Applicants can expect to wait approximately 2 and one half years for an order to be filled.
Feathers or parts of bald or golden eagles and other migratory birds may NOT be sold, purchased, bartered or traded. They may, however, be handed down to family members from generation to generation, or from one Native American to another for religious purposes. Native Americans may NOT give eagle feathers or parts to non-Native Americans as a gift.
Federal laws prohibit the import and export of eagle feathers. Enrolled members of federally recognized tribes, however, may obtain eagle transport permits that authorize them to travel outside of the United States with eagle items used for religious purposes.
To apply for eagles or eagle parts, or for further information, please contact your nearest FWS Regional Office.
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