Office of Law Enforcement
Pacific Region



May 2009

Some Antique Shops "Dabble" in Risky Business

Picture this:  you are out for a stroll on a crisp Sunday morning with a smile on your face and a steaming cup of coffee warming your hands.  You look up and see a formation of Canada geese flying overhead and you pause for a minute to appreciate how amazing nature is.  As you continue your walk, you pass a lovely antique store and decide to pop in for a look.  One never knows the treasures that may lie inside antique stores!

Picture of a live Canadian goose in flight
Canada goose mid-flight.  Photo credit: Alan D. Wilson, cropped and noise reduction applied by Diliff/ Wikimedia Commons


Once inside you spot a beautiful stuffed Mallard duck which you instantly know would look perfect in your house. You look over the price tag…$150, “not bad” you say to yourself.  You approach the counter and tell the sales person you would like the buy the duck. He smiles, takes your money and is carefully packaging it up when… “BAM!” a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent is there writing you AND the store owner a citation for violating a law you have never heard of. You calmly point out that you were unaware this purchase was against the law thinking this will prove your innocence.

However, much to your disappointment, you learn that ignorance of the law is not a defense; you will have to pay the citation in much the same way as you would have to pay a speeding ticket which you received when you didn’t know what the posted speed limit was.

Most people don’t know that it is unlawful to buy or sell or even offer to buy or sell any migratory bird or migratory bird parts; this includes mounted specimens of migratory game birds.  There are a few narrow exceptions which can be found at 50 C.F.R. 20.13 (2008) and 50 C.F.R. 20.14 (2008) but most people won’t qualify unless they are in the business of raising captive bred Mallards and waterfowl.  Almost all birds that migrate are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  A few examples of protected waterfowl are:  Mallard, Pintail, Canada goose, and Northern Shoveler.  For a full list, click here.

Please note that there may be state or local-level laws with additional requirements to the laws mentioned here.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agents have discovered that many antique and pawn shops are offering for sale migratory bird mounts and are thus not in compliance with federal regulation and law.  


Picture of an Antique Shop sign.
Antiques shop sign.  Photo credit:  Mark Fosh/ Wikimedia Commons

Picture of two stuffed owls.
Photo of two stuffed Little Owls.  Photo Credit: Maylene Thyssen/ Wikimedia Commons


Examples of prohibited conduct include:

  • Selling a stuffed Mourning Dove
  • Having a stuffed Pintail for sale in your shop
  • Buying a stuffed Canada goose from an antique or pawn shop where you saw it for sale
  • Offering to buy a stuffed Northern Shoveler which you see in a shop but does not have a price tag on it
  • Legally hunting a Mallard and then selling it to a business or individual
  • Exchanging money for a Bald Eagle or its parts
  • Finding and keeping a stray eagle feather

Examples of lawful conduct include:

  • Having a stuffed Mallard which you legally hunted in your shop or house for decoration
  • Having a picture of an eagle for sale in your shop
  • Having a replica of a Canada goose for sale in your shop
  • Finding a dead Great Horned Owl and turning it over to the nearest fish and wildlife service office

Stopping these violations is a priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) because of their commercial nature. For example, when a business or individual profits from unlawfully selling federally protected migratory birds it encourages people to unlawfully take species from the wild in order to benefit financially. That goes against everything the USFWS stands for.

To contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about this piece or to report a violation you have witnessed, please go to and click on the “contact us” link at the top of the page.  Contact information for each state wildlife department as well as each USFWS office per state can be accessed here.


Last updated: December 3, 2013

Law Enforcement Home
National Office of Law Enforcement Home Page
Pacific Region Home

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Home Page | Department of the Interior  |  | About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  | Accessibility  | Privacy  | Notices  | Disclaimer  | FOIA