The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Game Laws

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GAME LAWS, legislative enactments adopted by nations and states to prohibit or regulate the killing of wild animals, birds and fishes. In Great Britain the game laws are a relic of the forest laws, which in the time of the Norman kings were so oppressive; it being under the Conqueror as great a crime to kill one of the king's deer as to kill one of his subjects. A certain rank and standing, or the possession of a certain amount of property, were for a long time qualifications indispensably necessary to confer upon any one the right of pursuing and killing game. By the Game Act of William IV the game laws were greatly modified, the necessity for any qualification except the possession of a game certificate being then abolished and the right being given to any one to kill game on his own land, or on that of another with his permission. Every uncertificated person selling game is also required to take a yearly license. The animals designated as game by this act are hares, pheasants, partridges, grouse, heath-game or moor-game, black-game and bustards. These animals (with the exception of hares) are not allowed to be killed at all times, there being a certain season of the year — the close season — during which all people are prohibited from killing game. By an act of 1880 every occupier of land has a right, as inseparable from and incident to the occupation of the land, to kill and take ground game (hares and rabbits) thereon, concurrently with any other duly authorized person, all agreements in contravention of this right being declared void. Game laws of greater or less strictness are in force in many other countries. In Canada the chief restrictions are in regard to killing wild animals during the breeding season.

Game Laws in the United States.— In the United States wild game whether of forest, field or stream is perhaps better protected than in any other country in the world. Although there are certain general national laws, all States have passed game laws of their own and many States have organized societies for the protection and preservation of game. There are eight national organizations, the most important being the League of American Sportsmen. The others are the American Ornithological Union; the National Sportsmen's Association; the National Bird, Game and Fish Protective Association; Bird Protective Society of America; Boone and Crockett Club; International Forest, Fish and Game Association and North American Fish and Game Protective Society. Nearly every State in the Union has now a Game and Fish Commission and numerous game wardens.

The national game law, known as the Lacey Law, passed by Congress in 1900, gave to the Department of Agriculture certain powers, by which among other provisions no importation of wild animals, birds or fishes could be made without a permit from Secretary of Agriculture.

Many important additions and amendments to the Federal laws have been passed during the last 10 years, all tending to protect game and game birds in their natural state without interfering with the importation of birds, birds' eggs or animals for breeding purposes. During 1910 there was an increase in these importations. Foreign mammals were imported to the number of 7,862, less than 600 of which could be classified as game animals, while the number of game birds imported was 49,989. Among the importation of the year were the valuable specimens obtained for the National Zoological Park at Washington through the Roosevelt expedition and containing, among other mammals, several African antelopes and a lophiomys, a peculiar maned rodent rarely seen in zoological collections. Another shipment worthy of special mention was the six musk oxen brought from the Arctic regions for the New York Zoological Park by Paul J. Rainey, this being the largest number ever brought to the United States.

European Game Birds for American Covers.— A great deal of interest has been manifested in the experimental stocking of American covers with European game birds. The Hungarian partridge was the favorite prior to 1910, but since that time there has been a marked tendency to return to the pheasant. Thousands of pairs of partridges and English ringneck pheasants have been imported and distributed in Indiana, New Jersey, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Iowa, Vermont, the Dakotas and other States. Pheasant eggs have been imported for hatching and later liberation. The experiments with other game birds has been so disappointing that practically nothing was done along these lines.

The movement toward securing uniform laws for the protection of song, insectivorous and other non-game birds has also made substantial progress since 1900. The Shea plumage bill, prohibiting the sale of aigrettes and other plumage, took effect 1 July 1911. Laws protecting non-game birds have been very generally adopted in Canada.

Protectors, Seizures, Sportsmen's Associations, Close and Open Seasons.— New York since 1902 raised the number of salaried protectors from 50 to 90 and New Jersey has given its wardens every power to make searches and seizures. The total number of authorized game protectors in the 42 States reporting in 1910 was 9,354. Of these 748 were salaried officials, 1,167 were paid per diem and 7,439 performed their services without remuneration.

Under the Lacey Act numerous seizures were made of game shipped from the West and Southwest ana proceedings were instituted in a number of cases in State and Federal courts. In some of the cases in Iowa and South Dakota convictions were secured with penalties ranging from $150 to $200. The inspection of foreign birds at the port of New York was made more effective and special inspection service was established in Hawaii and extended in scope so as to prevent the introduction of noxious reptiles into the islands.

Even more important than the enactment of new game laws has been the work of game commissions and voluntary organizations interested in the practical protection of birds and game. In 1910 important changes were made in the game commissions of several States and five salaried game wardens were appointed in Alaska. Several sportsmen's game and fish protective associations were added to the large number already existing and the Audubon Society began a special campaign of bird protection in the South. Nearly all the States now have Audubon societies, which are formed primarily for the protection of birds other than game. The committee of the American Ornithologists' Union on the protection of birds extended its work along the coast and now maintains supervision of all the breeding colonies of sea birds on the Atlantic coast from Eastport, Me., to Chesapeake Bay, as well as at some points in Florida.

Practically all the State game laws passed by the various State legislatures prohibit the export of game, hunting or fishing for commercial purposes and hunting big game with dogs. In a few States the netting of minnows for bait is also prohibited. The killing of song birds is forbidden in most of the States, but this law does not apply to the hawk, owl, crow, blackbird and English sparrow. Hunting and fishing in the national Yellowstone Park is prohibited.

While the close and open season for hunting and fishing are well defined in all the States, there is no general statement that can cover the question, the seasons and conditions varying so widely. In Alabama, for instance, deer may be shot for two months only (November to January), in Indiana at no time, and in Illinois no deer can be shot until 15 June 1919. All State game laws are peculiarly adapted to local conditions.

New regulations on close seasons for migratory birds were made public 22 Aug. 1916 by the United States Department of Agriculture, after its approval of recommendations by the Federal Advisory Committee on the Migratory Bird Law. Spring shooting has been everywhere refused. It has been adopted as a fixed rule for the present that in no part of the country may there be shooting after the game has started for its breeding grounds in the North. The committee recommended a maximum shooting season of three and one-half months for any section of the country and tried to equalize opportunity as best it could in fixing that season. Among the valuable North American birds that the committee said were “candidates for extinction” were the whooping crane, trumpeter swan, American flamingo, roseate spoonbill, scarlet ibis, long-billed curlew, upland plover, Hudsonian godwit, red-breasted sandpiper, golden plover, dowitcher, willet, pectoral sandpiper, black-capped petrel, American egret, snowy egret, wood duck, band-tailed pigeon, heath hen, sage grouse, white-tailed kite, prairie sharptail, pinnated grouse and woodcock. See Audubon Society; Fishing; Hunting.