Mink coat for sale... from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service?

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service typically deals with critters while they're still alive, not after they've been skinned and made into clothing . But right now, the organization is your one-stop-shopping place for exotic items that once walked, ran or slithered -- sort of.

Turns out the service has a property repository in Denver filled with stuff that's been seized over time, usually because the pieces in question lacked proper permits or were from businesses out of compliance with import rules. And the powers-that-be decided to clear some space and raise cash at the same time via an online auction.

Fortunately, none of the products currently on the site, which can receive bids until March 8, are from endangered species -- and what did you need with an eagle-feather boa anyway? Instead, you'll find lots of lizard-skin boots, a few things covered in mink, and unusual keepsakes like this tablecloth made of buffalo and cobra skin. Top bid at this writing: $70.

You sure as hell can't pick up something like that at Nieman Marcus. Get more details in the USFW release below:

Fish and Wildlife Service to Conduct Online Auction of Wildlife Products

Some 300,000 items made from wildlife are slated to be sold through a special online auction beginning February 22, 2010, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeks to reduce costs for storing and maintaining forfeited and abandoned wildlife property at its National Wildlife Property Repository in Denver, Colorado. The sale will clear space for newly obtained wildlife property and support conservation education and other activities benefiting wildlife.

The sale will be conducted under contract by a private auction company based in Fort Worth, Texas. The company will offer items both individually and in lots of varying size and content over a period of several months. No items will be sold for immediate export.

Auction merchandise consists primarily of snake and lizard-skin clothing, shoes, boots, and accessories. Jewelry, home décor items, and other manufactured products made from seashells and coral will also be sold.

The items to be auctioned, all legal to sell, have been carefully selected from the more than 1.5 million wildlife parts and products stored at the Repository. They do not include any products made from threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, eagles, marine mammals, species listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), or species that cannot be sold or traded under the laws of the exporting country. No hunting trophies or wildlife parts will be sold.

Some of these items were forfeited or abandoned to the Service because the businesses importing them failed to comply with basic import regulations that apply to virtually all wildlife in trade (whether or not the specific species is protected). Others lacked the required permits for CITES Appendix II species that companies could have readily obtained from the country of export. These permits confirm that commerce represents no threat to the species in the wild and that the wildlife or plants involved were legally acquired.

Proceeds from the sale, as authorized by Federal law, will go into a special account used in part to fund the Property Repository and its work to educate the public about wildlife trade and global conservation and pay for the care of live wildlife seized by Service enforcement officers. Funds from this account, which are usually deposits from criminal fines and civil penalties paid by those convicted of violating certain Federal wildlife laws, are also used to pay rewards to individuals who help the Service solve wildlife crimes and support the National Eagle Repository, which makes eagle parts and feathers available for Native American religious use. Many of the endangered or threatened wildlife items ending up at the Repository are eventually donated or loaned to schools, museums, zoos, and other institutions for use in teaching the public about wildlife conservation and the effects of illegal wildlife trade. Educational efforts supported by the Repository include the popular "Suitcase for Survival" partnership program, which pairs a formal curriculum developed by non-profit groups with small suitcase-size collections of forfeited wildlife products for "hands on" learning about animals in trade.

During 2009, inventory at the Repository reached a level that forced the facility to temporarily suspend receipt of all shipments from Service law enforcement offices across the country. The planned auction will alleviate this problem and make more storage space available for items that continue to be seized nationwide and those that can be used to support conservation education.

While the Service has had the authority to sell such property since 1978, the upcoming auction represents only the second large-scale sale of products amassed by the agency. A 1999 sale of similar items helped reduce the Property Repository's inventory of stockpiled wildlife items by disposing of goods that -- like those slated for sale over the next few months - had little value for conservation education.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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