Wildlife Trafficking Charges for Napa Vintner and Curator (U.S. Endangered Species Act)

The proprietor of Blackbird Vineyards in Napa has recently been arrested for misdemeanor charges relating to illegal wildlife trafficking, specifically in parts of various endangered animals such as sea turtles and whales. Allegedly, the man did not understand that there are laws against purchasing and accepting any part of an animal on the endangered species list. However, law enforcement agents involved in the case claim that the vintner attempted to cover his tracks, labeling the shells and vertebrae he used for decorative purposes as other items, such as chairs.

Wildlife trafficking is most often defined as either actually poaching or taking endangered or managed species from their habitats or the trade of their parts, like horns, shells, and other desirable items. The U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) is the national version of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which created an arrangement between approximately 173 countries to protect managed species across the world.

In the case above, a sting operation was launched in order to catch the alleged perpetrator. Someone posing as a buyer purchased parts of endangered animals from an online website called “Hedley’s Humpers,” the provider for the vintner’s sideline business, Masonry. The accused has already been asked to pay a $75,000 fine and been put on a 3-year probation. Whether or not the owner will spend any time in jail is still to be determined. The total market value of all illegal items identified was about $81,000.