Wednesday, January 18, 2012
A Long, Wandering Post in which I Have an Adventure
My latest adventure happened a few days ago when two game wardens knocked on my front door. I hadn't been expecting them, but I was pretty sure I knew why they were there. See, back in December I got an anonymous email. I had just opened a second etsy store to empty out my studio of all the collections that have been piling up, and one of the things I listed were the feathers I'd picked up on the beach over the years. Here is what I read:
Oh dear! Well, I followed the links and did some further reading and determined that there are indeed laws regulating the feathers of certain birds. The writer was obviously confusing the actual feathers that were for sale with the photos I sell. Most of my feathers were probably fine since seagulls (the common Herring Gull, that is) are not protected birds, but to be safe, I immediately removed my feather listings. The email left me feeling very uncomfortable: I really dislike anonymous communication. Why would someone hide their identity when sharing important information? Notice their faux email address even uses my own name. If you are reading this, my anonymous emailer, thank you for letting me know the law, and take note that I consider "anonymous" a synonym for "coward."
At any rate, when two tough-looking game wardens in very official uniforms arrived on my doorstep I was pretty sure my anonymous friend had been at work again. Sure enough, it turns out that around the same time I received that email, someone called the Fish and Wildlife Services' anonymous tip line, and reported me as a Game Thief! (A Game Thief kills game out of season or kills protected animals.) Now I am a little bit of a Goody-Two-Shoes and I get very flustered when I break the rules or am suspected of it. I got a detention once, and I've been caught speeding twice, all of which I found very traumatic, and that is the extent of my contact with The Law. So when the wardens told me why they had come, I'm pretty sure I turned pink or red or white or mostly likely an unattractive mottled combination. They were very very nice about the whole thing. They had already looked at my website and seen that I was a beachcomber selling photographs, and were pretty sure before they came that I was not killing birds. Once I got over the initial shock that some stranger felt so strongly against me, I brought them up to my studio to see for themselves, and we had a nice chat.
What I was left with was that most of the feathers I find are probably not affected by the law, but that it is hard to identify them so safer to assume that they are. It is illegal to possess protected feathers, but photographing them is fine. So is selling the photos.
I was very impressed by the wardens - they were super knowledgeable and helpful, but I also got the feeling they were pretty tough guys, and I'd sure hate to break a law that would put me on their bad side! (Well, I kind of don't like to break laws anyway, but you know what I mean.) They gave me a great source for feather identification which I haven't had a chance to look through yet, but next time I do find a feather I plan to look it up as well as photograph it. And then put it straight back on the beach!
I have to confess that I have very thin skin, and I'm feeling very self-conscious now that I've had a couple of unpleasant emails. You know how an barnacle yanks its feathery arms back into its shell when it feels threatened? That's my first reaction. My second is to storm around telling people what I think in very strong words (inside my head, that is.) Then, when I calm down a bit and realize that it is only another adventure, I write it all down for your amusement and edification.