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State, Federal and French Wildlife Officers Work Together to Stop Illegal Import

A San Jose woman has been served with a fine, community service and probation for possession of several taxidermied protected wildlife specimens and attempting to import a taxidermied protected owl from France.

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Dora Martha Jimenez Zepeda, 42, of San Jose pled no contest to one count of violating Fish and Game Code, section 3503.5, unlawful possession of birds of prey, and forfeited several other taxidermied animals that are illegal to possess in California. The plea disposition also resulted in a $3,600 fine to be paid into the Santa Clara County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund, 300 hours of community service and three years of probation.

“This is one of the most unusual cases we have seen in a while,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Assistant Chief Bob Farrell. “The international trafficking of protected species usually falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but since some of these animals were also protected under state law, it was a particularly complicated case. We appreciate the collaboration with our French and federal counterparts, as well as the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office, to bring this investigation to a close.”

In June 2014, CDFW law enforcement officers received a call through the CalTIP (Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters) line from a wildlife officer at the National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (the French National Hunting and Wildlife Office). The French officer had been investigating the unlawful sale of a barn owl (tyto alba) to a California buyer through eBay’s French website. The barn owl is a protected species in France.

After several months of investigation, CDFW wildlife officers, along with officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), located the suspect at her residence in San Jose.  Inside the one-bedroom apartment, officers found more than 50 stuffed and mounted animals, including a full-bodied African lion. Officers seized three species of hawk, two Western screech owls, one long-eared owl, two barn owls, one egret and one sea turtle, all prohibited species to possess.  She was allowed to keep the other mounts not prohibited by state or federal law.

The suspect stated she purchased most of her taxidermy from eBay and denied having killed any of the wildlife herself.

Nongame migratory birds such as birds of prey are protected under both California law and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Sea turtles are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act and internationally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

CalTIP is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide CDFW with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, or have information about such a violation, please call 1-888-334-CALTIP (888-334-2258), 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tipsters can also text anonymous information, including photographs, to the CalTIP program via “tip411” (numerically, 847411). Wildlife officers can respond directly, resulting in an anonymous two-way conversation.

Media Contacts:
Capt. Don Kelly, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (831) 229-0903
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692

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