Allen M. Bowden, 36, of Rienzi, Miss., has been charged with one count of possessing protected wildlife, a violation of Alabama wildlife regulation 220-2-.26, which places restrictions on the possession, sale, importation and/or release of certain animal and fish species.
Saturday, August 20, 2016, Bowden was arrested by Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) Conservation Enforcement Officers (CEO) for attempting to sell three swift foxes at the Noah’s Ark Exotic Animal Auction in Hanceville, Ala. Swift foxes are native to the Western U.S. and do not occur naturally in Alabama.
With the exception of permitted wildlife rehabilitators, personal possession of wild animals in Alabama is illegal.
“This is yet another case of wildlife being better off left in the wild,” said WFF CEO Jonathon Bartlett, who along with CEO Steve Pepper, carried out the arrest. “Attempting to keep captive wildlife never ends well for the animal or the person confining it. Eventually, the animal will be harmed through inappropriate care or it will bite or scratch the person leading to potentially serious injuries.”
Foxes, raccoons, coyotes and bats are known carriers of rabies, a disease that is 100 percent fatal in the absence of timely post-exposure treatment. Rabies is a threat to humans primarily through bites or scratches from wildlife. Permits for the rehabilitation of rabies vector wildlife such as foxes are rarely issued. There is no legally approved rabies vaccine for foxes.
In addition to the potential disease exposure to humans, the import of non-native wildlife threatens Alabama’s native species. Not only can these animals displace native species, they can impact other wildlife populations through the introduction of parasites and pathogens.
“Often people grow tired of their exotic pets and intentionally release them into the wild where they become established and multiply,” said Kevin Dodd, WFF Chief of Law Enforcement. “These animals frequently cause significant damage to native habitats and agricultural crops and serve as carriers of tapeworms, rabies and other diseases.”
The list of exotic animals causing havoc within native ecosystems is steadily growing each year. Apple snails in Alabama and Florida, lionfish in the Gulf of Mexico and pythons in the Everglades are just a few of the exotics that have become established in the U.S. due, in part, to the pet trade.
In recent years, several well-meaning Alabamians have been harmed while attempting to assist wildlife. In one instance, a litter of raccoon kits was transported from south to north Alabama inadvertently exposing several people to rabies. Captive deer in Alabama have also been responsible for severe injuries and one death in 2003.
“Wild animals are not meant to be kept in cages,” Dodd said. “Ultimately, it’s just unfair to the animal.”
An additional layer of wildlife protection is in place for the 2016-17 hunting season. Alabama hunting regulation 220-2-.25, which addresses the importation of game animals, wildlife and furs, was expanded to ban the import of all cervid (deer and other deer-like animals) body parts from states, territories, and foreign countries where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been confirmed.
Exceptions to the ban include meat that has been completely deboned, cleaned skull plates with attached antlers and no visible brain or spinal cord tissue, raw capes or hides with no visible brain or spinal cord tissue, upper canine teeth with no root structure or other soft tissue, and finished taxidermy products or tanned hides.
WFF relies upon a concerned public to report wildlife law violations. To report these violations, please call the Operation GameWatch line at 1-800-272-4263.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.