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The Plume Hunters

Updated on August 31, 2017

The Plume Hunters

In the 1870’s it was the fashion craze for women to adorn their hats with many feathers, some even wore their hats with part of the bird on it. This fashion craze sparked the day of the “Plume Hunters” who killed many of these beautiful and exotic birds in Florida. At one time their feathers were more profitable than gold or silver. This lead to the extinction of the lovely Carolina parakeet and to the almost extinction of many other rare birds. By 1896 nearly 5 million birds were killed nationwide for use in the fashion industry.

The First Florida Game Warden

In 1901 the Florida legislature passed the Lacey Act, which outlawed the killing of wild birds for profit and protected other endangered wildlife in Florida. The first Game warden and also deputy sheriff of Florida was a man named Guy Bradley. He was hired to arrest any poacher that violated the law and to protect the wild birds. Poachers would steal in at night and kill hundreds of these beautiful birds for their feathers, leaving their dead bodies on the ground to rot. In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt created the first wildlife refuge in the United States—Pelican Island. Its first warden was Paul Kroegel, who joined with Bradley to protect the birds in Florida from the bird hunters.

The Murder of Two Game Wardens

On July 8th, 1905 Guy Bradley was killed by a poacher. He was shot and left to bleed to death. His killer was never punished. Another game warden,in Florida, about the same time as Guy Bradley, was Columbus G. McLeod. He was appointed by the Audubon Society to protect the birds. A similar fate also took his life. He was murdered on November 30th, 1908 by poachers. They found his boat sunk, and his bloody hat with hatchet marks in it—-but never found his body. His murderers were never found or prosecuted.

The National Audubon Society is Formed

Harriet Hemenway and her cousin Minna Hall, wealthy Boston socialites, fought against the plume trade and headed up a boycott on the fashion industry that used decorative bird feathers. They formed women’s groups to help their cause and formed the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Their efforts helped to establish the National Audubon Society that pushed for laws to stop the plume traders—and eventually helped to pass the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—between United States and Great Britain in 1918—that has protected these wild birds.

Endangered Wildlife--A Tribute to The Hero's


My Painting Honoring the Men and Women Who helped to Save the Wildlife

This is my painting, done for a Florida exhibition, to honor those that gave their lives to protect the Florida wildlife. It includes the Carolina Parakeet which is now extinct, and several other wild birds and animals from Florida that are currently on the endangered list. Pictured also is Guy Bradley, Paul Kroegel, Harriet Hemenway and her cousin in the background. Sadly there was no picture of Columbus G McLeod--but only his boat and hat is pictured. Also pictured are the women of fashion with their feathered hats--feathers that took the lives of millions of wild birds.

© 2017 Carol Hill


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