Central Delaware
State goes after illegal taxidermy
Pictured is some of the evidence seized from a recent investigation of illegal taxidermy practices in Milford. (Submitted photo/DNREC Fish and Wildlife Enforcement)

DOVER — In less than a month this early spring, state enforcement officials announced the arrests of three men on illegal taxidermy charges.

That’s about the pace of the unlawful commercial invasion of wildlife for profit, DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Sgt. Gregory Rhodes said.

“It’s sporadic, but it’s not uncommon,” he said. “We get a few cases a year.”

John J. Ament, 57, of Milford was charged on April 4 after officials said he was found attempting to sell mounted deer heads, turkeys and a bear online.

In a separate case on March 27, 57-year-old Thomas G. Baker of Felton was charged with several offenses that included a count of illegally possessing a wild bird for mounting purposes.

On Tuesday, following an investigation, DNREC agents cited Dover 39-year-old James J. Spence with two counts of illegally offering antlered deer for sale and two counts of commercialization of native wildlife in connection with an online posting to sell mounted deer antlers.

“These were cases of commercial invasion of wildlife” Sgt. Rhodes said. “The issue is that we don’t want people profiting from the harvesting of wildlife unless they’ve gone through the proper process of state and federal law.

“Most taxidermists in the state do things the right way and there are legitimate game farms to do business with.”

DNREC said Mr. Spence has the option of paying the citation or requesting a court date and, if guilty on all four counts, faces a total of $2,607 in fines and court costs.

Fish and wildlife items may fetch between $200 and $2,000 depending on the trophy, and Sgt. Rhodes said “The illegal taking of wildlife is the second most clandestine illegal money-making opportunity in the country, second only to drug sales.”

When Delawareans cross state lines to receive illegal taxidermy for sale, DNREC agents are deputized federally to enforce fish and game laws through the Lacey Act.

“In Delaware, in order to provide services, a taxidermist must have a valid business license, and also must adhere to state and federal wildlife laws and regulations as applicable, including observing permit, tag and species restrictions,” Sgt. Rhodes said.

Mr. Ament violated the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), DNREC said, with the attempted sale of the bear. The international treaty is recognized by more than 170 countries to support the survival of wild animals and plants.

“Although participation in CITES is legally binding, it does not take the place of national laws,” DNREC said in a press release.

“Rather, it provides a framework to be respected by each country, which must then adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.”

DNREC said Mr. Ament had the choice to pay a citation or go to trial, with potentially more than $2,600 in fines and court costs looming.

The Delaware Code mandates that it’s illegal to collect, possess, import, export, buy, sell or offer for sale any native wildlife species or any part thereof without a permit from the director of the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, or, alternately, written documentation to confirm that said wildlife was legally taken and transported from another state, a press release said.

Mr. Baker was arraigned in JP Court 3 in Georgetown on eight counts of illegal possession of untagged migratory waterfowl, one count of working without a federal migratory bird taxidermy permit, and a count of illegal possession of a wild bird for mounting purposes. A court date was pending as of last week.

Sgt. Rhodes said citizens can report fish and wildlife violations to the Delaware Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section by calling 739-4580.

Staff writer Craig Anderson
can be reached at 741-8296
Follow @DSNAnderson on Twitter.