What can you keep and when can you keep it?

Eurasian_Hoopoe small photo                You are breaking the law. I am sure of it. Somewhere in your house is a feather from a wild bird, maybe even a nest with eggs in it. You’ve got a skull from a wild animal, perhaps, that you found in the woods or along the road. Whatever it is, you most assuredly don’t have the required possession permit.

I’d also bet that you are entirely unaware that it is illegal to possess wild birds or animals, or any part of a wild bird or animal, including feathers and bones, without a permit issued by Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Maybe, like my neighbor’s kid, you noticed that many of the eggs laid along your road in the sand by snapping turtles had been dug up and eaten by predators, so you dug up some of the eggs and tried to hatch them at home. Nice try, but a violation of the law.

Or perhaps you are teacher with a collection of animal bones and skeletons that you use as teaching tools. You law breaker you!

Before you panic, let me say that the Maine Warden Service is not targeting violations of this law. They know most people did not illegally kill these animals in order to possess their feathers or other parts. This law is in place to discourage that practice.

Nevertheless, I hate laws that turn us all into lawbreakers – especially me. Years ago, I was out for my morning walk, just after Linda left for school, when I happened upon a freshly road-killed grouse. I picked it up to take it home for a meal, and another teacher driving by saw me.

When that teacher got to school, she told Linda to expect grouse for supper. Too late! I ate it for lunch. And only recently did I learn that my lunch was illegal. You cannot keep road-killed animals without a permit.

The Laws and Rules

I thank DIF&W’s Nate Webb for providing me with the following information, in case you want to check the laws and rules yourself.

The first section includes the language that would generally prohibit someone from possessing wildlife parts, while the second section includes several of the avenues by which the Department could authorize someone to possess wildlife parts (including by licensed hunters during an open season).  There are also federal laws that prohibit the possession of the parts of certain wildlife species.

Prohibitions for possessing parts of wild animals and wild birds


  • 10951. CLOSED SEASON
  1. 1General; prohibition. Except as otherwise provided in this Part and except as the commissioner

may establish by rule not inconsistent with this Part, there is a perpetually closed season on hunting any wild

animal or wild bird.


  1. 1. A person may not possess a wild animal or wild bird or any parts of a wild animal or

wild bird that the person does not possess by any lawful means in the State or any other jurisdiction.

[ 2015, c. 301, §5 (NEW) .]


  1. 1Closed season; general. A person may not hunt any wild animal or wild bird during the closed

season or possess any wild animal or wild bird taken during the closed season on that wild animal or wild

bird. Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who violates this section commits a Class E crime.



A person may not take, possess or needlessly destroy the nest or eggs of a wild bird, except the English

or European house sparrow, the rock dove and the European starling. A person who violates this section

commits a Class E crime. [2013, c. 280, §10 (AMD).]


Statutory Language allowing the Commissioner to authorize possession of wildlife and wildlife parts


  • 10105. OTHER POWERS
  1. 9Possession and disposal of fish and wildlife. The commissioner may take possession of sick, injured

or dead fish and wildlife that is not the property of another person. For any fish and wildlife possessed by the

commissioner under this subsection, the commissioner may:

  1. For sick or injured fish or wildlife, destroy that fish or wildlife when necessary in a manner consistent

with the provisions of Title 17, section 1043; and [2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 (NEW);

2003, c. 614, §9 (AFF).]

  1. For dead fish or wildlife, dispose of that fish or wildlife in any manner considered appropriate by the

commissioner. [2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 (NEW); 2003, c. 614, §9 (AFF).]

This subsection does not apply to fish or wildlife seized by the commissioner under section 10502.




  1. 1License required. Except as otherwise authorized pursuant to this Part, a person may not engage in

an activity for which a license may be issued under this section unless that person has a valid license issued

under this section. An electronic license or permit fulfills the requirement under this subsection that a person

must have a physical paper license or permit if the electronic license or permit can be displayed upon request

to a game warden or other law enforcement officer, an employee of the department, a registered Maine

guide or the owner of the land on which the licensed activity is taking place. Each day a person violates this

subsection that person commits a Class E crime for which a minimum fine of $50 and an amount equal to

twice the applicable license fee must be imposed.




The commissioner may issue a permit to any person, permitting that person to hunt, trap, possess, band

and transport wild animals and wild birds for educational or scientific purposes. [2015, c. 374, §12


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.