Permits Overview

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service issues permits under various wildlife laws and treaties at different offices at the national, regional, and/or wildlife port levels.  (We do not issue hunting and fishing licenses.  Instead, those are issued by State wildlife agencies.) 

Permits enable the public to engage in legitimate wildlife-related activities that would otherwise be prohibited by law.  Service permit programs ensure that such activities are carried out in a manner that safeguards wildlife.  Additionally, some  permits promote conservation efforts by authorizing scientific research, generating data, or allowing wildlife management and rehabilitation activities to go forward. 

Permits are handled by permitting programs in International Affairs (Management Authority), Endangered Species, Law Enforcement, and Migratory Birds. (Visit the National Wildlife Refuge web site for Special Use Permits.) For more detailed infromation, go to How to Obtain a Permit, FAQs/Facts, or Application Forms. Ferrets

Endangered Species regional offices administer native endangered and threatened species permits under the Endangered Species Act (except permits for import and export).  Permits are issued to qualified applicants for the following types of activities:  enhancement of survival associated with Safe Harbor Agreements and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances, incidental take associated with Habitat Conservation Plans, recovery, and interstate commerce. Permits for import and export are issued by International Affairs (Division of Management Authority) below.



International Affairs (Management Authority) is responsible for administering CITES for the United States. We primarily issue permits to import and export species that are protected by CITES and by various other wildlife conservation laws. Some examples of other activities we permit are:  take of certain marine mammals; take and interstate and foreign commerce of non-native species protected by the Endangered Species Act, including a captive-bred wildlife registration; cooperative breeding programs for live exotic birds covered by the Wild Bird Conservation Act; and import and transport of injurious wildlife.

Law Enforcement InspectorLaw Enforcement administers permits at regional offices and certain port locations.  A permit or license may be issued to qualified applicants for the following activities:  to engage in business as a wildlife importer or exporter; import or export wildlife at other than an designated or authorized border or special port, and export and re-export certain CITES wildlife.


Migratory Bird regional offices administer permits for qualifiedapplicants for the followingtypes of activities:  falconry, raptor propagation, scientific collecting, rehabilitation, conservation education, migratory game bird propagation, salvage, depredation control, taxidermy, and waterfowl sale and disposal.  These offices also administer permit activities involving bald and golden eagles, as authorized by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.  


Last updated: February 26, 2010