Idaho couple charged with illegal importation of live wildlife

Laramie – An Idaho couple recently paid fines in Wyoming for transporting live pheasant chicks without permits.

In April of 2021, West Cheyenne Game Warden Spencer Carstens received a tip from a concerned citizen about an online advertisement offering day-old pheasant chicks for sale. A husband and wife wanted to raise pheasants on their small Idaho farm. “A previous order for live birds had apparently resulted in them receiving a number of birds which had died during transport. This time around, they opted to bolster their effort by personally picking up the birds in Wisconsin.” Carstens said, “To help cover their travel expenses, they more than doubled their original order and then tried to sell the extra birds on the trip back home.”

Wyoming has long been careful to minimize risk in the handling or movement of live wildlife. “An introduced animal can be very dangerous to the ecosystem, as it will often compete with local wildlife for similar resources, it may carry diseases or parasites local animals have not developed immunities to, and, in some cases, may interbreed with native species and dilute natural genetics,” Carstens says. “Even though a species may not cause problems in its native land, subtle differences may allow them to quickly become problems in a new environment.”

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has enacted a number of regulations covering the possession of live wildlife (Chapter 10), game bird farms (Chapter 40), scientific research (Chapter 33), with still more rules specifically applying to specialized activities such as possessing raptors for falconry purposes (Chapter 25). Wyoming Livestock Board regulations also cover the movement of most live animals in order to further protect the health of Wyoming’s animals, the livestock industry, and the general public. Both agencies require paperwork certifying the health of imported animals.

With the proper permits, passing a basic facility inspection to ensure the animal can be cared for appropriately and with a minimal risk of its escape, and obtaining veterinarian-certified healthy birds, people can possess live pheasants, often for uses such as dog training, human consumption, or simply as a unique pet. Applications and forms for possessing or importing live wildlife can be found by accessing the “Permits” menu tab from the top of the WGFD website

The Idaho couple made no apparent attempt to obtain any permits for any of the states traveled, they did not stop at interstate ports of entry for commercial transport permits, and there was no health certificate for the more than 2,000 live birds in their possession. “Luckily, they had purchased the birds from a reputable National Poultry Improvement Program (NPIP) certified hatchery and we were able to allow them the take the remaining birds to Idaho,” Warden Carstens said.

The birds sold to three Wyoming households were not so lucky. “Two purchasers were found to have no equipment or suitable facilities to raise the birds,” Carstens explained. “They realized the permit requirements after their purchase and voluntarily forfeited the birds to WGFD.” A third purchaser was identified later from the sales records, but his birds had perished in a too-hot vehicle before he made it back to his home in western Wyoming.

The couple each paid $450 fines in Laramie County Circuit Court on Nov. 2. The husband was cited for importing live wildlife without a permit, and the wife was cited as an accessory for her part in arranging the sales and delivery of live birds into Wyoming. They were also warned for failing to produce a certificate of veterinary inspection, and failing to provide a certificate of origin to their customers, as well as other record-keeping and game bird farm permitting requirements.

Anyone with information regarding any fish or wildlife violation may call the Stop Poaching Hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP (1-877-943-3847). Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward if the information leads to a conviction.