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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Game Processor Can Be Prosecuted Under Bird Act

(CN) - An employee who played fast-and-loose with goose tags at a hunt-processing facility can be prosecuted under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the 8th Circuit ruled.

Under the law, all game birds must bear tags detailing species, date shot and the hunter's signature, among other things. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent ticketed staffer Caleb Gilkerson at Steamboat Game and Fish Inc., a hunt-processing facility in Pierre, S.D., after finding "dozens of geese" untagged in the freezer.

Gilkerson was also cited for allowing hunters to switch out freshly hunted game birds, without proper tagging, with ones that had already been processed. Gilkerson appealed to North Dakota federal court after a magistrate judge slapped him with six months probation and a $2,100 fine.

The U.S. district court found that because Gilkerson is a corporate employee and not a sole proprietorship, the crime didn't apply to him. As a "human being," Gilkerson could not be a "migratory bird preservation facility" under the law, the court stated.

The St. Louis-based appeals court didn't buy that argument. The opinion cited the statute in saying that a "migratory bird preservation facility" can be any "person who, at their residence or place of business ... receives, possesses, or has in custody any migratory game birds." A person can be a corporation or an individual under the law, the 8th Circuit found.

In reversing the district court's judgment, the 8th Circuit also said that the lower court erred in allowing an "adjudicative" memo noting the federal wildlife agent's unpopularity in the hunting community.

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