Wildlife Laws

While you might think keeping a wild animal as a pet is a fun idea, it is not.  Wild animals are just that… wild.  They deserve to live as nature intended and that is free in the wild.  In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to own or keep wildlife as pets. If you find an injured or orphaned wild animal, please contact wildlife rehabilitation center near you or call the Aark for advice 215-249-1938.

  • The Migratory Bird Treaty Act

    This Act, originally passed in 1918, provides protection for migratory birds. Under the Act, it is unlawful to take, import, export, possess, buy, sell, purchase, or barter any migratory bird. Feathers or other parts, nests, eggs, and products made from migratory birds are also covered by the Act. Take is defined as pursuing, hunting, shooting, poisoning, wounding, killing, capturing, trapping, or collecting.

    Exceptions: Migratory bird hunting regulations, established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, allow the taking, during designated seasons, of ducks, geese, doves, rail, woodcock, and some other species. In addition, permits may be granted for various non-commercial activities involving migratory birds and some commercial activities involving captive-bred migratory birds.

    Penalties: Individuals or organizations may be fined up to $5,000 and $10,000 respectively, and may face up to six months imprisonment for misdemeanour violations of the Act. Felony violations may result in fines of up to $250,000 for individuals, $500,000 for organizations, and up to two years imprisonment.

  • The Endangered Species Act

    Passed in 1973 and reauthorized in 1988, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulates a wide range of activities affecting plants and animals designated as endangered or threatened. By definition, “endangered species” is an animal or plant listed by regulation as being in danger of extinction. A “threatened species” is any animal or plant that is likely to become endangered within the forseeable future.

    The Act prohibits the following activities involving endangered species:

    Importing into or exporting from the United States.

    Taking (includes harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, trapping, killing, capturing, or collecting) within the United States and its territorial seas.

    Possessing, selling, delivering, carrying, transporting, or shipping any such species unlawfully taken within the United States or on the high seas. *Delivering, receiving, carrying, transporting, or shipping in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a commercial activity.

    Selling or offering for sale in interstate or foreign commerce.

    Prohibitions apply to endangered species, their parts, and products. Most of these restrictions also apply to species listed as threatened unless the species qualifies for an exception. The Act also requires that wildlife be imported or exported through designated ports and that special declarations be filed. If the value of wildlife imported and/or exported is $25,000 per year or more, importers and exporters must be licensed.

    Exceptions: Permits may be granted for scientific or propagation purposes or for economic hardship situations involving endangered or threatened species.

    Penalties: Violators of the Endangered Species Act are subject to fines of up to $100,000 and one year imprisonment. Organizations found in violation may be fined up to $200,000. Fish, wildlife, plants, and vehicles and equipment used in violations may be subject to forfeiture. Rewards: Individuals providing information leading to a civil penalty or criminal conviction may be eligible for cash rewards.

  • The Eagle Protection Act

    Bald Eagle protection began in 1940 with the passage of the Eagle Protection Act. Later amended to include the Golden Eagle, the Act makes it unlawful to import, export, take, sell, purchase, or barter any Bald Eagle or Golden Eagle, their parts, products, nests, or eggs. “Take” includes pursuing, shooting, poisoning, wounding, killing, capturing, trapping, collecting, molesting, or disturbing the eagles.

    Exceptions: Permits may be granted for scientific or exhibition use, or for traditional and cultural use by Native Americans. However, no permits may be issued for import, export, or commercial activities involving eagles.

    Penalties: Misdemeanor violations may result in fines of up to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for organizations and one year’s imprisonment. Fines of up to $250,000 and $500,000 for individuals and organizations, respectively, may result from felony violations.

    Rewards: Persons providing information leading to the conviction of Eagle Protection Act violators may be eligible for cash rewards.

  • The Wild Bird Conservation Act

    In 1992, the United States passed the Wild Bird Conservation Act. By October 1993, the law prohibited the import of all CITES-listed-birds (almost 1,000 species) except for those included in an approved list either by country of origin or wild-caught birds or by specific captive breeding facilities.

    For wild-caught approved birds, a management plan that provides for conservation of the species and its habitat is required. In addition, it established a moratorium on trade of any non-Cites species. Exemptions include game birds and bird species indigenous to the 50 United States and the District of Columbia.

    The Act establishes an Exotic Bird Conservation Fund, to be funded by penalties, fines, donations, and any additional appropriations. The Fund is to be used to assist exotic bird conservation projects in their native countries. Particular attention is given to species subject to an import moratorium or quota in order to assit those countries in developing and implementing conservation management programs, law enforcement programs, or both.

    Penalties: Criminal violations: Violators of the prohibited acts shall, upon conviction, be fined, or imprisoned for not more than two years, or both. Civil violations: Violators of the prohibited acts shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $25,000.