Permit FAQs

What do I need to collect specimen material within the U.S.?
Collecting permit requirements vary according to taxonomic group and geographic region. In the United States, a state permit is required for most animals, although for some species you can collect with a fishing/hunting license or no permit (within certain limits for herps). Federal permits also are required to collect certain kinds of species (e.g., migratory birds, federally threatened or endangered species) or on federal lands (e.g., National Parks, some national forests). You should always check with the state and federal agencies to obtain the most current permit requirements and application forms.

What do I need for international collecting and import/export??
International collecting is more complicated, but you need to follow the laws of the country. For most countries you will need a collecting permit or letter of authorization from that country. You also may need a separate permit for exporting the material. U.S. requirements for importing material of foreign origin vary depending on the taxonomic group. Birds and mammals require a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Contact Carla Cicero (ccicero[at] for USDA import permits and associated requirements. Some bird species require a USFWS Migratory Bird Import/Export Permit (contact Carla Cicero). Any species that is CITES-listed, threatened/endangered, or a marine mammal requires special permits. Specimens that are transferred between CITES-registered institutions can be exchanged under an institutional Certificate of Scientific Exchange. All wildlife imports/exports to and from the United States must be declared to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by filing a Declaration for Importation or Exportation of Fish or Wildlife (form 3-177 a.k.a. “eDecs”). All specimen imports/exports to and from the the United States must use a designated port for entry/exit.

Is there a distinction between specimen vouchers (e.g., skins, skeletons, whole animals) and other material (e.g., blood, tissue, hair, feathers, feces, DNA extracts, PCR products, etc.)?
As a general rule, the same permit requirements apply to specimens regardless of the nature of material. However, you should check the requirements for the particular material that you plan to collect or import/export. For example, some agencies regulate PCR products (USDA) and others don’t (USFWS). DNA extracts generally are treated the same as tissue or blood from an import/export standpoint.

Is a permit needed to pick up a dead animal?
A state and federal permit is needed to salvage dead birds, and you can only salvage dead birds in the states authorized on that permit. State permits also are required to salvage dead mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. Salvage authorizations on permits are in addition to other authorizations (e.g., for scientific collecting). According to the California Department of Fish and Game website, “No one, even a holder of a Scientific Collecting Permit (SCP), can pick up road kills, native bird feathers, or collect owl pellets or other animal parts without a SCP authorizing the salvage of dead amphibians, reptiles, birds, and/or mammals.”

How long does it take to get a permit?
This is unpredictable and varies by the agency. As a general rule, plan on at least 6 months to one year for processing of a permit application.

How can I get more information and advice on permits?
For more information, visit the Permits section of this Handbook. MVZ Staff Curators also are available to provide advice and assistance with permits (but read the website first!). If you need a copy of an MVZ institutional permit, contact a Staff Curator at least two weeks in advance of your planned departure