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Photo By Craig F. Walker / The Denver Post

National Eagle Repository — USA

by Jonah Goodman

The natural habitat of the bald eagle stretches from Alaska to Mexico, but any bald eagle that dies anywhere in the USA ends up just outside Denver, Colorado. Killing a bald eagle, the national animal of the USA, was made illegal by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which also outlawed possession of dead eagles or eagle parts. This had unintended consequences for Native Americans, making some of their traditional practices illegal and violating their constitutional right to religious freedom. Not until the early 1970s was a solution found. Based at a former chemical weapons facility, the National Eagle Repository receives around 2,000 dead eagles every year, most of them victims of electrocution by power lines or collisions with cars. Federal conservation agents double-bag, freeze, then FedEx the corpses to Colorado, where they’re sorted and stored so that members of the 566 recognised Native American tribes can apply for parts in writing, joining over 6,000 applicants on a two-year waiting list.

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