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  • 1.  Wildlife Permits

    Posted 02-12-2016 07:20 AM

    I have assisted various institutions in obtaining wildlife specimens for exhibits.  With today's scrutiny on such exhibits and permits, I am looking for input and experiences on success in obtaining both state and federal permits.  Thank you. 

    Michael Oropallo JD
    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 2.  RE: Wildlife Permits

    Posted 02-15-2016 01:57 PM

    As much of my work involves the extinct, I don't always have to deal with this issue.  However, it does sometimes come up.  For a recent project, I needed to obtain a sample of polar bear hair.  As I needed only hair and not skin, shed hair was acceptable.  So I contacted a zoo that keeps polar bears and asked about getting a sample.  They agreed to provide one, but only on the condition that I furnished documentation of the proper permits, as polar bears are protected by both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 

    After a lot of phone calls, I eventually reached someone at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife headquarters in Washington, D.C.  She was kind enough to explain what documents I would need and how to get them.  I followed her recommendations to the letter, and it still took a few months to get my documents, so if time is of the essence, start early! 

    Sometimes, it is possible to piggyback on the permits others already have if the specimen comes from a museum collection.  This happens when specimens are loaned (sometimes as "permanent" loans) to other institutions or researchers.  In such cases, any authorities can be referred back to the loaning institution for documentation (although it is definitely good to have a copy of the loan agreement from their registrar). 

    In many cases, permits are not necessary IF you can provide documentation of the age of the specimen.  If it was collected prior to the enactment of the legislation that protects it (1972 for the Endangered Species Act, I think...) then no permit is needed.  Many specimens both in museum collections and held privately are old enough to meet this criteria, and if the age of the specimen doesn't matter, this can save a lot of trouble. 

    It's also worth looking into salvage permits, which specifically allow collection of only deceased specimens.  (For example, this would allow you to legally collect the skeletal remains of a Tanager or other migratory bird.)  However, as different species are protected by different laws and agencies (some state, some federal) there isn't a single "one size fits all" salvage permit. 

    It's a complicated web of rules and process, but with increasing scrutiny due to the volume of smuggling and trafficking, it's worth making sure that you have your papers in order. 


    Michael Holland
    Michael Holland Productions
    Bozeman MT

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 3.  RE: Wildlife Permits

    Posted 02-16-2016 09:38 AM

    Similar to Michael Holland, I have had positive experiences with natural history specimens in exhibits whereby I was able to "piggyback" in a sense on scientific investigator permits. For instance, I designed and installed an exhibit that was showcasing researchers' work in our university and asked to display some specimens that had been part of their research. I included some of the specimens in the exhibit and noted that the specimens were loaned to us by the investigators who held the original permits. For most of our exhibits, however, we already had the permits to collect the specimens (copies of permits from investigators who donated their research specimens to the collections, or salvage permits) that were then later used in our exhibits. 

    Kirsten Nicholson
    Museum of Cultural & Natural History - Central Michigan University
    Mount Pleasant MI

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 4.  RE: Wildlife Permits

    Posted 02-16-2016 09:43 AM

    Hi Michael:

    We actually just got done working with a Fish and Wildlife agent on items in our collection.  We had some found in collection items and a recent acquisition come up with suspected eagle feathers, so that's what prompted us to call.  We have an agent who we have worked with in the past who has always been very friendly and reasonable with us.  While we had him over, he wanted to check out all of our paperwork to make sure everything was in order.

    The basic take away I had from our conversation was that we needed to have a proven chain of ownership.  Person A shot eagle B at location C on date D and donated it to us on date E.  Obviously eagles are illegal to kill, so it would have to be proven that it was done legally, perhaps before legislation was passed. As long as we had that information, we could potentially get permits for any recently acquired eagle specimens.  For our found in collection items we weren't able to prove that because they were just sitting in crates on top of a shelving unit for 50+ years, and no one knew where they came from.  They were confiscated by the USFW agent and we had no objection to it because they had no provenance and had no unique qualities.  I'm sure we could've made a case if some of the pieces were spectacular and significant, but none of them were.  That's probably why they weren't accessioned in the first place.

    We have 30+ eagle specimens between feathers, eggs and full mounted birds but only one of those items needed to have an eagle permit because everything else was acquired before the bald and golden eagle protection act, which was passed in 1940.  So everything before that is grandfathered in and doesn't require a permit.  I believe that applies to all of the various protection acts, but I'm not 100% sure.

    I would find someone to speak to at the Fish and Wildlife Service office nearest you to have them explain things in greater detail.  They could tell you what exactly you need to do to be on the right side of federal and state law.  We had someone who was very friendly and reasonable work with us.  He even agreed to come and do a presentation about the laws at a workshop we had for local and tribal museums.

    I hope that's somewhat helpful.

    Geoffrey Woodcox
    Assistant Curator of Collections
    State Historical Society of North Dakota
    Bismarck ND

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 5.  RE: Wildlife Permits

    Posted 02-16-2016 09:53 AM
    Michael's response is great. 

    At previous jobs, I acquired permits and specimens for institutions around the US. I support regulations on wildlife possession. Working on the vendor end, sometimes with client-provided specimens and lax records, we had to be particularly careful.           

    Establishing a good relationship with your regional USFWS Endangered Species/Migratory Bird/permit person is invaluable. I found ours to be very helpful and patient. When a problematic situation arose she knew us and had confidence in our commitment to following the laws, and helped me document things properly to keep us out of trouble. 

    Be diligent about having the proper permits and documents with the specimens, and maintain accurate tracking lists.For migratory birds, I believe you must rely on the salvage permits of the collecting organization, and the tags and permits travel with the specimen. 

    One last thing - don't let staff pick up things and put them in the freezer! There should be clear guidelines for what staff may and may not bring into the facility, and a go-to person for questions. I know of at least one organization that had problems because of poor practices.

    Lisa Friedlander
    Exhibits Project Specialist
    Minnesota History Center
    345 Kellogg Blvd West
    Saint Paul, MN 55102

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more