Feds Bless Migratory Path for Dead Seagull

For the past two decades the big attraction at Cappy's Chowder House in Camden, Maine, has been a big, dead seagull, under glass in a gilded Victorian frame several feet tall. The greater black-backed gull, which hung on a wall in the upstairs dining room, resembles a profile of an Indian chief, with its feathers flattened around its body like a halo. It is hard to miss -- and therein lay a near-calamity.

A diner noticed the gull this past summer and, for some reason, complained to the authorities. In October, agents from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service arrived at the restaurant to confiscate the gull, claiming that Cappy's was in violation of a 1918 federal law that prohibits the purchase, sale, or possession of migratory birds -- even migratory birds that have been dead and mounted in a frame since 1854. Owner Johanna Tutone refused to give up her gull, and faced a fine of $500 and six years in jail.

Tutone found a friend in state senator Olympia Snowe, who brokered a Solomonesque compromise. On December 7, Tutone gave the gull to federal officials, who then gave it to the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, where it will be displayed for most of the year. During the busy summer months, however, the gull will migrate as a "loan" back to Cappy's, where it can continue to offend and delight the diners.

(Penobscot Marine Museum: 5 Church St., Searsport, ME Directions: Downtown. Corner of US 1 (Main St) and Church St. Phone: 207-548-2529)

[12/10/2006]

Penobscot Marine Museum

Address:
40 E. Main St., Searsport, ME
Directions:
Downtown. From US Hwy 1 turn west onto Church St., then left into the museum parking lot. The seagull hangs above a desk in the corner of the Old Vestry building.
Hours:
June-Oct. M-Sa 10-5, Su 12-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
207-548-2297
Admission:
Adults $15.
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