Salvage Permits (US)

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Statement of Purpose

This page is for information on US state-issued Salvage Permits. See also Permitting.


Emily Braker

Salvage Permits

Salvage Permits are a type of Scientific Collecting License that authorize collecting of dead animals and their parts (skulls, feathers, etc.) for scientific research and educational purposes. These permits serve as exemptions to state wildlife laws, which manage and conserve wildlife resources within state boundaries and generally prohibit the possession of non-game species. The vast majority of US states require a Salvage Permit to authorize take, though the specific implementation of Salvage Permit regulations may vary. In general, salvage rules are often limited to vertebrates, though may apply to other groups, such as crustaceans and mollusks, and will be specified by the state regulatory body e.g., (Department of Natural Resources, Department of Game and Fish). Salvage must be opportunistic, with permittees playing no role in the killing or death of encountered animals or their parts. Possession of salvaged wildlife for personal use is typically prohibited by this permit (though exceptions exist), with salvaged material to be transferred to a public scientific or educational institution, zoological park, museum or scientific society.


  • Salvage of state or federally threatened and endangered (T&E) species is not authorized by this permit. State-listed T&E species can be searched at and federally-listed T&E species can be searched at the USFWS ECOS site. Permit holders may contact the appropriate regional wildlife officer (state-listed species) or USFWS agent (federally-listed species) to formally sanction take of dead T&E species encountered in the field. If granted, T&E specimens will remain federally owned, but may be reposited by an authorized local institution
  • Salvage of marine mammals is not authorized by this permit. Marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and require salvage authorization from the National Marine Fishery Service and USFWS.
  • Salvage of Bald or Golden Eagles is not authorized by this permit. Any dead eagle must be immediately reported to the local USFWS Office of Law Enforcement and regional Migratory Bird Permit issuing office to gain clearance before shipping to the National Eagle Repository.
  • Possession of a Scientific Collecting License for targeted lethal take typically also grants permission to salvage animals found dead in the field. Contact the appropriate state agency prior to salvage activities if permission is not explicitly stated on the issued Scientific Collecting License.
  • Individual states may include additional exceptions, restrictions or requirements that will be outlined in the permit document, e.g., written notification to area wildlife managers prior to salvage activities, or mandatory check-ins for game species found dead in the field.

Additional Requirements:

  • Salvage of all migratory bird species and many non-migratory bird species must be accompanied by a USFWS Federal Migratory Bird Special Purpose Salvage Permits in addition to a state-issued Salvage Permit.
  • Additional authorization is necessary for salvage activities occurring on US federal or state lands and private property, generally in the form of prior written authorization, permission, or permits from the relevant agency or landowner.
  • Permittees must submit an annual salvage report each year that minimally documents the species salvaged, dates, localities, and final disposition (available on state wildlife agency websites). Even in the case of no permit activity, an annual report should be submitted.

Other Considerations:

  • A copy of the USFWS Federal Migratory Bird Special Purpose Salvage Permit should accompany permittees in the field.
  • Properly document compliance by including a copy of the permit or reference the permit number in the corresponding accession files of salvaged specimens.
  • Salvage Permits often authorize an institution to accept donations of lawfully acquired specimens from other entities (e.g., exchanging salvaged species between institutions, or transferring a euthanized animal from a permitted wildlife rehabilitator to a museum).