Specimen Donations

Growth of the MVZ collections depends on donations of specimens from MVZ researchers, the general public through salvage, and external organizations including zoos, wildlife rehabilitation centers, government agencies, airports, and other museums. Contact a MVZ Staff Curator for additional information.

Jump to Section:

MVZ Research Specimens

All specimens must be accompanied by copies of permits or other documentation showing that the material was obtained legally by the donor. In cases where the donation consists of older material that lacks such documentation, the donor must submit a letter to the Museum at the time of the donation that indicates the nature and source of material and that explains the reason for lack of permit documentation. Salvaged specimens from California that are not threatened or endangered may be covered by the museum’s state and federal salvage permits.

Specimens donated to the MVZ should have information on collector, collection locality and geographic coordinates, collection date, and other relevant data. For detailed information regarding localities, see the MVZ Guide for Recording Localities in the Field (PDF).

All specimens should be accompanied by either field notes, data tags, or data sheets. Original field notes are preferred, especially for MVZ affiliated researchers.

Tissues deposited in MVZ should be well-labeled and contain complete data. In addition, voucher specimen information (including institution acronym and catalog number) must be provided, along with copies of relevant collecting permits or other documentation.

Each time you transfer specimens from a research expedition to the MVZ, fill out an Accession Donation Form (PDF) and give it to the appropriate Staff Curator.

Occasionally, donors may wish to claim specimen donations as a tax deduction. Museum staff are not responsible for appraising the value of specimen donations for tax or other purposes. In these cases, the donor must submit a letter to the Director indicating the number and kind of specimens donated, their estimated value, and how this appraisal was obtained (e.g., by a certified taxidermist). The Museum then will submit this letter to the UC Development Office, who will provide the donor with a receipt.

Accessioning and cataloging will follow established procedures of the Museum. Donated material and associated data will be made available for research, education, or public exhibit according to the mission and policies of the Museum and Regents, except by prior signed agreement between the donor and the Museum.

Salvage and Gifts

The MVZ welcomes donations of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, bird eggs and nests, mammals from people and organizations outside of the museum. This may include specimens found dead (salvage) or provided by non-MVZ organizations.

Specimens must be legally acquired. All wildlife is regulated by a combination of state and federal agencies. In California, the main agencies are the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While the regulations differ according to taxonomic group, species, and status (e.g., threatened/endangered), it is generally illegal to live-trap, collect, or salvage wildlife without a permit. General salvage is covered under the museum’s permits, but other gifts must be accompanied by permits or, minimally, a letter documenting the source of the material and its transfer to the MVZ (e.g., for historical specimens).

Donations that are received through salvage or gifts should be recorded on the Accession Donation Form (PDF). Use the Continuation of Species List Form (PDF) if you require more room. Please remember to fill out all parts of the form, including the bottom half which lists the species, location and date found, condition, and data quality. That information is used to create new accessions in Arctos, assess the condition of specimens for preparation, and compile end-of-year permit reports.

Donated carcasses are made into research specimens and are used in our MVZ Undergraduate Program for education in vertebrate anatomy, evolution, and diversity. Donated material and associated data will be made available for research, education, or public exhibit according to the mission and policies of the Museum and Regents, except by prior signed agreement between the donor and the Museum.

What should I do if I find a dead animal?
Unfortunately, animals are found dead in a variety of circumstances that range from hitting windows or cars to death by disease. The Museum welcomes donations of such specimens, especially those that are fairly fresh, because they can provide valuable additions to the collections. Any person who handles a dead animal should be aware of potential health hazards. If a person picks up a dead animal (amphibian, reptile, bird, or mammal), they should contact a MVZ Curator to see whether the Museum is interested in the specimen and to make arrangements for donating the carcass. 

The specimen should be frozen in a ziplock freezer bag or tightly sealed bag (air removed as much as possible) until it can be transferred to the MVZ. Please fill out the MVZ Salvaged Specimen Data Slip (PDF) for each carcass, and keep this form with its associated carcass at all times.