An ornithologist for the state extension service, Piper had earned her degree and gotten her job out of a love of birds, but was more commonly presented with their mangled remains to identify. She also confiscated illegally collected native birds, mostly hawks, and was consulted about shooting, poisoning, or clubbing unwanted flocks. The state natural history museum had long since stopped taking her calls or accepting her packages–they simply were not interested in taxidermy specimens no matter how pristine. She couldn’t help it, though–such magnificent specimens deserved a better fate than the trash. This led Piper down what some might consider a dark path, amateur taxidermy. There were buyers out there for illegally prepared and mounted birds, and they were willing to pay cash and not ask questions. The way Piper saw it, she was reducing the market for poached birds, since all her specimens had died of natural causes. Her position also meant that she could fill her workspace with the stuff and no one would ask any questions. The birds got their respect, deaths were not in vain, and Piper supplemented her meager salary–it seemed like everybody won in that arrangement.

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