As eagle parts used in Native American ceremonies become harder to find, poaching is on the rise in northwest New Mexico, The Daily Times in Farmington reported.
Native Americans can wait up to three years to obtain eagle feathers, bones and talons — the most common parts used in religious ceremonies — legally through the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, so some are turning to those who can obtain them illegally, according to The Daily Times.
“We have major issues, particularly in the Farmington and Shiprock areas,” said Gloria Tom, director of the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife.
And Farmington and Shiprock are becoming the places to find black-market eagle parts, not just for the Navajo Nation but also throughout the country, Tom told The Daily Times.
Poachers are violating both tribal and federal law by catching the birds, tearing their feathers out and releasing them, and sometimes the eagles are shot, Tom said.
“It’s pretty much a death sentence to the bird,” said Tom, who said eagles are unable to navigate or survive without their feathers.
Parts can be obtained legally through the National Eagle Repository in Denver, which receives, stores and distributes parts of eagles that are found dead from zoos, conservation agencies and rehabilitation groups, The Daily Times said.
Distribution of eagles and their parts to Native Americans is authorized by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, but it usually takes one to three years after the application is made to approve the distribution, the paper reported.
Members of the Navajo Nation also can get feathers, but no other parts, from the Navajo Nation Zoo in Window Rock, Ariz., which collects feathers naturally fallen from the handful of golden eagles at the zoo.