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Florida Songbird Trafficking Increase Leads To New State Rule

Songbirds, like indigo buntings, are becoming more popular for illegal trapping and selling within the pet industry. State wildlife officials are trying to stop it.

State wildlife officials are drafting a rule to protect Florida’s native songbirds from illegal trapping. Officers are seeing an increase in bird trafficking for the pet industry.

It's illegal to capture songbirds, but wildlife officials say it's hard to make a case when they catch people with empty traps.

"What this rule would do is it would regulate the use, placement, possession and transport of the traps themselves," said  Craig Faulhaber, an avian conservation coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"And that'll allow our law enforcement officers, if they find traps in the wild, they'll be able to confiscate those traps and help to make cases based on those traps rather than having to wait and hope to find a bird that's already caught in the trap."

He said illegally trapping and selling native songbirds is big business and fairly profitable.

"We think that the numbers are increasing and the process is spreading and so we want to take this opportunity to try and address the problem now," said Faulhaber.

The Tampa Bay area is home to many songbirds, like warblers, cardinals and wrens.

"These are species that a lot of people enjoy coming to the bird feeders," he said. "They enjoy just having these birds around and being able to go out and view them. And so we're really trying to adhere to our mission and protect those birds species for both current Floridians and future generations too."

There will be exceptions for people using bird traps for lawful purposes, like research among other things.

The FWC meets again in May. In the meantime, Floridians can tell the commission what they think of the new rule by sending an email to Imperiled@MyFWC.com.

Since 2012, I’ve been a voice on public radio stations across Florida - in Miami, Fort Myers, and now Tampa.
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