You can see eagles all around South Dakota, from the Black Hills to Sioux Falls. But can you get arrested if you find an eagle feather and keep it?

You can find Bald and Golden eagles flying in South Dakota from the Big Sioux River on the eastern border to Mount Rushmore in the western part of the state.

Mount Rushmore Eagles South Dakota-Getty Thinkstock
Mount Rushmore Eagles South Dakota-Getty Thinkstock
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There is even a stretch of Highway 34 between Sturgis and Pierre that it’s earned the nickname of “Raptor Alley.”

This stretch is a haven for bald and golden eagles, congregating to fish and food in the open waters below the Oahe Dam on the Missouri River.

But let's say you are walking along the mighty Missouri River and you find an eagle feather, can you pick it up and keep it? 

Oahe Dam Missouri River South Dakota-Getty Thinkstock
Oahe Dam Missouri River South Dakota-Getty Thinkstock
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The answer is NO! It could cost you thousands of dollars and even jail time!

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service... “The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act enacted in 1940 prohibits anyone, without a permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior, from "taking" bald or golden eagles, including their parts (including feathers), nests, or eggs.

Missouri River South Dakota-Getty Thinkstock
Missouri River South Dakota-Getty Thinkstock
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The Act provides criminal penalties for persons who "take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, transport, export or import, at any time or any manner, any bald eagle ... [or any golden eagle], alive or dead, or any part (including feathers), nest, or egg thereof."

A violation of the Act can result in a fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for one year, or both, for a first offense.

Penalties increase substantially for additional offenses, and a second violation of this Act is a felony.”

If you do happen to come across a dead Eagle or other parts you are asked to contact your nearest wildlife official.

Is It Illegal To Get Caught With An Eagle Feather In South Dakota-Getty Thinkstock
Is It Illegal To Get Caught With An Eagle Feather In South Dakota-Getty Thinkstock
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There is an exception for South Dakota's Native American tribal members.

Enrolled members of federally recognized tribes (as established under the Federally Recognized Tribal List Act of 1994, 25 U.S.C. Section 479a, 108 Stat. 4791) may obtain a permit from the Service authorizing them to receive and possess eagle feathers and parts from the Repository.

The Sunken Iowa Steamboat

Gallery Credit: Andy Gott