According to today's Reuters story about eagle inspections by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, if there's one thing the U.S. needs, it's more dead-but-not-rotten eagles.
We have a deficit, people.
It's a crisis.
Each year, the government's Colorado-based eagle repository, charged with distributing dead eagles for use in Native American religious ceremonies and making cool headdresses for Coachella, receives about 2,300 carcasses culled from both wildlife agents and what the article ominously refers to as "others."
The storehouse receives over 3,000 requests for whole or partial eagle carcasses each year.
The waitlist is over 6,000 entries long.
Of course, sometimes the only thing worse than not getting the dead eagle you ordered can be getting it. Some tribes say they would prefer not to use the repository at all, not only because it takes so long to get a bird, but because the staff occasionally try to pass off crummy decomposing eagles as big, beautiful, ritual-worthy ones.
Of course, they can only work with what they've got:
On this particular day, [eagle inspector Dennis Wiist] removes a decayed golden eagle from a bag with a note attached saying the bird had been found in a water tank, which Wiist says rendered it useless.
C'mon America. Why would you even send that in?
On that note, what exactly does being an eagle inspector entail?
• touching a whole lot of dead birds – between 25 and 30 a day
• holding "plumes to the light" (so beautiful; remember this phrase for future short stories)
• hanging suitable (i.e. not rotten to the point of crumbling) eagles in giant freezer bags
• having a workstation surrounded by a bunch of big, frozen birds, suspended in various states of decay
Bald eagles were taken off the endangered and threatened species list in 2007, though, Reuters notes, killing them is still "mostly illegal." (In rare instances, tribes get special permits to shoot one or two for use in religious ceremonies; Native Americans argue the government's refusal to issue such permits violates tribal members' religious freedom.)
Mostly illegal, yes.
But probably also very lucrative.
So get out there and start "finding" dead eagles like crazy.
(Though possessing a dead eagle without a permit is also illegal, so you might want to start "finding" those too.)
[Image via AP]