Is it illegal if you accidentally bring an organism with you from one continent to another?

A couple years ago I went to Europe with my family and a friend, and I found a pigeon feather in Danmark that I wanted to draw, then I forgot I had it in my bag. It was in a little ziploc bag the whole time though. But it ended up traveling to 6 different countries while we were there, and Canada, then finally back to Oregon.
I actually did not find the ziploc bag with the feather in it until two weeks ago! And I still have not had the time (sadly) to draw it yet. But it is currently in that same bag, now labeled with all the collection information, displayed on one of the cork boards on my bedroom wall. Which is part of why I want to know if I could get into trouble for this accidental event? It has happened before with a mouse that got into our car in Canada, but we drove back to where it got into the car and released it.


those laws are there to prevent the spread of invasive species, and to prevent smuggling. mostly.
I don’t think you’ll be in any trouble over one feather – the authorities have bigger issues. As for whether it was carrying any parasites… dunno.



Likely there is nothing viable in that bag after this length of time.

Every country has its laws over what can be imported and what is a biohazard. When we were in Australia we used to have border stew because there were strict regulations about what kind of produce could be brought from one state to the next - therefore anything we had that was “fresh” we had to consume or render it inert by cooking or pickling etc.

Tasmania had strict biosecurity rules. New Zealand also has strict biosecurity - we washed our tent and footwear in the shower before we went from Australia to New Zealand - they are not to keen on Eucalyptus seeds being unknowingly imported among other things

Some countries have restrictions on importing rare and exotic woods and other items. I went to the US by car and wanted to take my acoustic bass guitar but upon researching found out there was a possibility of Rosewood being in the structure - to import Rosewood into the United States, you need to have an export certificate from the “CITES Management Authority” in the exporting country, and then have your import cleared by U.S. Customs, which uses guidelines developed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. I did not have time to organize this and although possibly a slim chance, I did not want an alert border agent confiscating it. This is also why when travelling we rarely will buy hand crafted pieces because we are unsure of the provenance.


You could photo the feather, submit to iNat (since you have collection data), then dispose of the feather in the same ziploc it traveled in. I sincerely doubt an APHIS or Fish & Wildlife Service agent would be interested in this minor violation.

it doesn’t apply to pigeons, but it is technically illegal to own / collect feathers from many bird species in the United States. so just be aware of that if you’re not already, and if you have a habit of picking up random feathers.

i wouldn’t worry so much about your feather otherwise. no one will come knocking on your door to take you to jail, and you probably won’t destroy any ecosystems with it.


Yes, I was made aware a while ago.
But that was after our family had been picking up the occasional feather from time to time for years.

My mom uses them in here biology classes, and uses that as a bit of an excuse.

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.