Tracking the Maine Wallaby
You are breaking the law. I am sure of it. Somewhere in your house is a feather from a wild bird, maybe even a nest with eggs in it. You’ve got a skull from a wild animal, perhaps, that you found in the woods. Whatever it is, you most assuredly don’t have the required possession permit.
I’d also bet that you are entirely unaware that it is illegal to possess wild birds or animals, or any part of a wild animal, including feathers and bones, without a $25 permit issued by Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Maybe, like my neighbor’s kid, you noticed that many of the eggs laid along your road in the sand by snapping turtles had been dug up and eaten by racoons and foxes, so you dug up some of the eggs and tried to hatch them at home. Nice try. But that’s a violation of law.
Or perhaps you are a teacher with a collection of animal bones that you use as teaching tools. You law breaker you!
Title 12, section 7235-A, spells out the requirements to obtain a permit to possess, propagate, and sell wild birds and wild animals. The law also covers exotic animals and animal parts.
Before you panic, let me say that the Maine Warden Service is not targeting violations of this law for arrest and prosecution. They know that most people did not illegally kill these animals in order to possess their feathers or other parts. This law is in place to discourage the practice of killing wild animals for their parts.
Nevertheless, I hate laws that turn us all into lawbreakers. At the risk of admitting guilt, let me suggest that the following anecdotes may be hypothetical.
I was turkey hunting in a wetland area a few weeks ago and discovered the skull of a beaver. The teeth are particularly interesting – so I brought it home with the thought that Linda could use it in her first grade class.
On my daily walk last summer, I found a perfectly formed tiny baby snapping turtle, dead, beside the road. It reminded me of the time we found about a hundred baby snappers in the road, many of them run over by cars. I spent a lot of time finding the live snappers and moving them out of the road. So when I found this perfectly formed but dead snapper, I brought it home.
Again, these may be hypothetical cases. But they are good examples of what typically happens. Which brings me to live animals. Michelle Charette of Island Falls ran afoul of the law by accepting the gift of a wallaby. A wallaby is actually any of about thirty species of macropod, and is found principally in Australia.
Michelle might have gotten away with her wallaby except she took it to her son’s baseball game. Someone at the game contacted the Warden Service.
DIF&W’s Deputy Commissioner, Andrea Erskine, told me a few days ago that the department’s major concern is making sure the wallaby can be vacinated for rabies. And she had just learned from a Caribou veterinarian, who researched the issue, that there is a rabies vacine for wallabies, but the animal can’t be vacinated until it’s been out of it’s mother’s pouch for 16 months.
Right now, the wallaby is supposed to be in isolation, out of contact with Michelle’s kids or anyone else. Let’s hope that’s the case. Even a scratch by an unvacinated wild or exotic animal can require a difficult series of rabies shots.