A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless because I don’t want to get him in trouble, used to have a pair of hawk talons hanging from the rearview mirror in his car. Hawks, of course, are protected, so you’re not supposed to have hawk talons hanging from the rearview mirror of your car. Actually, you’re not supposed to have them hanging from anything, except maybe hawks, and you’re not supposed to have those, either.
So this friend was, technically, violating some law, even though he didn’t actually kill a hawk, but having the talons wasn’t hurting anything. I guess if he’d had a wreck someone could have lost an eye to a claw, but the talons, just hanging there, didn’t ever damage anybody walking by the car, or parking nearby, or anything like that. Consequently, no one ever gave my friend a hard time about having the talons. But then, this friend lived in San Angelo, not California. Things are different in the USA than they are in California.
I’m making a snide reference, of course, to the recent incident in Georgetown, California, where two stuffed animals were stolen from a local bar by the California Department of Fish & Game Freedom Police. It seems there is a state fish & game code in California that prohibits a subject of that state from possession any protected animal, whether alive or dead, and the law evidently states that this rule shall, by George, be obeyed, ‘even if the protected animal in question has been stuffed for over half a century, and is currently sitting in a bar minding its own business.’
These party poopers, acting on an anonymous tip that there were ‘numerous endangered species’ displayed in the bar, checked it out and found there were actually two stuffed animals there that violated the silly law. One was a red-tailed hawk that the owner was not sure had been killed in California, and had been there for over 20 years, anyway. The other was a wolverine, which was killed in Alaska over 60 years ago. Not only that, but the wolverine was wearing a red hat, and had a cigarette between its teeth. Obviously it felt at home. You never see wolverines wearing hats and smoking cigarettes anyplace they’re uncomfortable. Not red hats, anyway.
Laws, as we can see from this story, don’t necessarily have to make any sense. I could understand the CDFG storming the bar, sufficiently backed up by a well-armed SWAT team, if the wolverine were either still alive, or even if it had recently been killed, and the authorities had reason to believe the person who killed it was still in the bar. Like if it was happy hour, or something. But this wolverine had not only been a goner for over six decades, probably longer than the law has been in effect. There was little chance of finding the guy who actually killed it, unless he was a very slow drinker.
Plus the wolverine, while alive, had not even been a resident of California. It had lived in Alaska, where people still have common sense. Wolverines there, if there are still wolverines there, are probably considered a threat, as opposed to threatened. If an Alaskan bartender put a mounted wolverine behind his bar, his customers would be more likely to shoot it than make a weaselly, anonymous, tattle-tale phone call to the authorities about deceased endangered creatures.
Anyway, considering the time factor involved, it would seem there should be a grandfather clause in effect here. If a mounted animal is over, say, ten years old, someone should be able to display it without having to worry about the authorities coming in and stealing it. Ten years should be long enough to discourage people from going after endangered critters and then waiting out the statute of limitations to put it on the wall.
And there should definitely be an exception here if, as I believe, the wolverine was killed before it was against the law to kill it. Seriously. Sooner or later it will probably be illegal to shoot a deer, but that shouldn’t make criminals of everyone who has a shoulder mount in their den. Any elected knothead can pass a law against something, anyway, which doesn’t make the act morally wrong, it just makes it illegal. Big difference.
The hawk may be a different story, but still, a 20-year-old mounted bird shouldn’t raise much of a stink. I think the CDFG needs to get a grip.
Game laws, without question, should be obeyed at all times, if possible. They should not necessarily be obeyed before they’ve been passed.
Someone making a comment about this story, which was posted on the Outdoor Hub website, made a reference to Martin Niemoller’s WWII poem about allowing others to be persecuted, hoping it wouldn’t happen to oneself. Pretty apt, I thought.Today, they’re coming for stuffed wolverine owners. Tomorrow they may come for you.
And when they do, they’ll probably have hawk talons hanging from their rearview mirrors . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has fake duck behinds attached to the ceiling of his office, which may be illegal. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org