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Case of Boulder bird breeder sheds light on little-known law

BOULDER, Colo. –

The original version of this story contained an error: Although the state regulation was updated March 1, monk parakeets have been a prohibited species since 2002.

A tropical bird with an affinity for surviving in places it’s not welcome is causing a stir for one Boulder County breeder, and shedding light on a little-known state law banning the ownership and sale of certain pets.

Charles Higbee, 37, was cleared by animal control officers and state wildlife officials Tuesday after being investigated for owning and breeding monk parakeets in unfit conditions.

Brandy Perkins, an animal control officer for the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, said officials were tipped off about the birds last month by a real estate agent who found a shed packed with the bright green chatterboxes. The agent was concerned the birds had been abandoned without food or water, and were living in a coop filled with feces.

An investigation revealed that Higbee was in the process of moving to a new house, and has since set up appropriate living conditions for his 23 birds, Perkins said.

Higbee said Tuesday that the birds are now being kept in conditions “appropriate for that species,” and that he has more than 20 years experience breeding the birds as his personal pets.

“They’re very well taken care of,” he said.

But in the course of investigating Higbee’s case, animal control officers came upon a state regulation they didn’t know about that bans breeding of the parakeets, which are hugely popular pets around the world.

The law, which was updated March 1, defines the birds as “detrimental to existing wildlife and their habitat in Colorado,” and restricts ownership to only those who can prove they had the animals as of Sept. 1, 1990, or through special permission.

Because the ban is relatively unknown, the Sheriff’s Office opted to warn Higbee not to breed or sell the birds â rather than confiscating them.

“They are illegal now,” Perkins said. “(Higbee) was not aware of that, as most people aren’t.”

Enforcing the Colorado Division of Wildlife regulation â which sets out more than 20 invasive species not to be kept, sold, transported or bred in the state â is tough.

“Yes, they’re illegal, but there’s sort of a caveat: They’re known the world over as Quakers,” said Julie Murad, CEO and founder of the Gabriel Foundation, a Denver-based nonprofit parrot rescue and shelter.

The Quaker parrot is not specifically on the state’s list of prohibited pets, but local officials say whatever people choose to call the birds won’t matter when it comes to enforcement.

Murad said she knows from experience, however, that finding the manpower, and funding, to actively enforce the regulation is almost impossible.

To date, feral flocks of monk parakeets have been found flourishing in places like Colorado, Chicago’s Hyde Park and even Vatican City.

“They’re very hardy, colonial survivors,” Murad said.

Daniel Simberloff, a professor of environmental science, ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, said monk parakeets are “one of the few truly invasive species of birds.”

“They’re invasive for both agricultural reasons, and they sometimes mob other birds and steal their nests,” he said.

Other animals banned as pets by the law include: raccoons, tree or sun squirrels, prairie dogs, all species of non-human primates, striped skunks, brush-tailed porcupines, Russian boar and Gambian giant-pouched rats.

Archived comments

Dang!

Whadda I’m gonna do now with that gross of Norwegian Blues?

fgd135

3/10/2009 5:29:55 PM

“all species of non-human primates”

So human primates are ok ?

Uriah_Heep

3/10/2009 5:35:39 PM

Yup, Uriah… That’s why the Midyettes got to keep Alex…

InsipidPhenom

3/10/2009 6:11:26 PM

They have them wild in NY.

Home

sidd

3/10/2009 7:39:34 PM

… and now the State has to cage and feed him for the next few years until they can find someone willing to adopt him … or euthanasia …

Uriah_Heep

3/10/2009 8:00:13 PM

And they can correct the error in the law but still don’t how to spell parakeet.

Look at the headline.

That 8 yr old proofreader must not be available.

Moosi

3/10/2009 8:00:42 PM

…or donate him to the zoo…

InsipidPhenom

3/10/2009 8:14:17 PM

“shed packed with the bright green chatterboxes. The agent was concerned the birds had been abandoned without food or water, and were living in a coop filled with feces”.

Higbee’s excuse was lame, he was moving.He is an irresponsible pet guardian and should have the birds confiscated.

BoulderConfidential

3/10/2009 9:03:34 PM

Ha……..1/2 hour and they fixed it.

Thank you DC

Moosi

3/10/2009 9:21:01 PM

Wait, I’m not supposed to be breeding Gambian giant-pouched rats?

birdmother15

3/10/2009 9:57:50 PM

Nope… and I have to go underground to breed my Russian Boars now, too… 🙁

InsipidPhenom

3/10/2009 10:01:13 PM

And what of inbred Russian Boors who have a physics building named after their father …?

Uriah_Heep

3/10/2009 11:40:59 PM

“He is an irresponsible pet guardian and should have the birds confiscated.”

And what then? Donate them to KFC ??

Uriah_Heep

3/10/2009 11:42:01 PM

Why must so many people stick their noses in others business?A real estate agent nonetheless.What is wrong with these people that get a thrill from calling the cops to report insane non issues?Not enough attention at home?No friends?Unreal.

DC, who was the realtor? I’d like to know before I accidentally hire them.

super_boulder

3/11/2009 1:00:42 AM

Okay, so there is a law against animals that are deterimental to Colorado wildlife and the list includes raccoons and squirrels?

Will all of the raccoons and squirrels be arrested or just ticketed?

What kind of idiots write these laws?

Bing987

3/11/2009 1:05:14 AM

“….and they sometimes mob other birds and steal their nests,”

Government birds

Boston

3/11/2009 6:30:00 AM

“Other animals banned as pets by the law include: raccoons, tree or sun squirrels, prairie dogs, all species of non-human primates, striped skunks, brush-tailed porcupines, Russian boar and Gambian giant-pouched rats.”

So you can’t keep prairie dogs as pets?The city of Boulder should be cited and all the prarie dogs confiscated!

Canyonrunner

3/11/2009 6:50:33 AM

When Budgies are oulawed only outlaws will have Budgies

hammelbill@aol.com

3/11/2009 10:52:43 AM

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