skip to content
Shelves upon shelves of confiscated wildlife parts from big cats including tigers and leopards.
Information icon Illegal wildlife property, heads of cats. Photo by Ryan Moehring, USFWS.

Wildlife Law Enforcement

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reduces threats to plants and animals through the enforcement of federal wildlife laws such as the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act both on America’s public lands and around the world. We also investigate wildlife crimes.

For a complete list of the laws protecting our nation’s wildlife, visit our national law enforcement site.

What is wildlife crime?

Wildlife crime includes:

  • Smuggling, or trafficking, the poaching or other taking of protected or managed species and the illegal trade in wildlife and their related parts and products;
  • Unlawful commercial exploitation;
  • Habitat destruction;
  • Poisoning incidents.

How to report wildlife crime

Help protect the wildlife and natural resources of America. Report wildlife crime 24 hours a day to or 1-844-FWS-TIPS (397-8477).

Ethical hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers provide the best information to catch criminals. Your tips and eyewitness accounts are invaluable in protecting wildlife and punishing poachers.

When reporting try to provide as much information as possible, such as:

  • What happened?
  • Where did it happen? Be as specific as possible.
  • Who was involved? Describe the people including names if known, vehicles including license numbers, and names of other witnesses.
  • When did it happen? Date and time are very important.

Do not attempt to stop a crime yourself. Be safe and be a good witness. You can call anonymously — or work with officers as a confidential informant — but the sooner you contact us, the faster we can respond, gather evidence and catch the criminals.

Reward program

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is authorized to pay rewards for information or assistance that leads to an arrest, a criminal conviction, civil penalty assessment, or forfeiture of seized property. Payment of rewards is the discretion of the Service and is linked to specific federal wildlife laws. The amount of any reward we may pay is commensurate with the information or assistance received. Please discuss the possibility of receiving a reward with the Service personnel receiving your information or assistance.

Importing and exporting wildlife

A baby alligator in the hands of a law enforcement agent.
A baby alligator illegally collected from a National Wildlife Refuge is held by a law enforcement officer. Photo by USFWS.

Domestic and international wildlife trade is a big business. Generally, you must import or export your shipment through a designated port, declare your shipment on a special form, and receive clearance for your shipment.

In most cases, you must be licensed and pay user fees for each shipment.

Wildlife officers are stationed at designated ports that are used for all movement of wildlife, including for commercial, non-commercial, scientific, or personal purposes. They work to ensure that all animal materials moving across state and country borders, both alive and dead, have been lawfully harvested and traded.

Designated ports

There are five ports located in the Southeast Region:

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • Miami, Florida
  • New Orleans, Louisiana

Learn more about how to legally import or export your commercial wildlife shipment.

Wildlife that is illegal to import or transport

Injurious wildlife

Injurious wildlife are mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, crustaceans, mollusks and their offspring or gametes that are injurious to the interests of human beings, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, wildlife or wildlife resources of the United States. Plants and organisms other than those listed above cannot be listed as injurious wildlife.

Species listed as injurious may not be imported or transported between states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any territory or possession of the U.S. by any means without a permit issued by the Service.

The Service considers a variety of factors when evaluating a species for listing as injurious, including:

  • The species’ survival capabilities and ability to spread geographically;
  • Its impacts on habitats and ecosystems;
  • Impacts on threatened and endangered species;
  • Impacts on human beings and resource-based industries;
  • Resource managers’ ability to control and eradicate the species.

Analysis of these factors guides the Service’s listing determination. Scientific data is reviewed for factors that contribute to injuriousness and factors that reduce or remove injuriousness. In addition, other laws require that various economic analyses be conducted to determine the economic impacts of potential rulemakings.

Permits may be granted for the importation or transportation of live specimens of injurious wildlife and their offspring or eggs for bona fide scientific, medical, educational, or zoological purposes.

Tips for traveling abroad

Purchasing wildlife souvenirs

A huge pile of white jewelry made from ivory.
Illegal jewelry made from elephant ivory. Photo by USFWS.

You may find that some of the most beautiful and interesting souvenirs offered for sale are made from the furs, hides, shells, feathers, teeth, and flesh of creatures threatened with extinction. Although tourists may lawfully buy such souvenirs in a number of foreign countries, it may be illegal to import them into the United States.

Read our Tips for Travelers guide and Facts About Federal Wildlife Laws brochure prior to taking your trip. You may need permits for some items, while others may be illegal.

If you still have questions, please contact the designated port near you.

Traveling with your pet bird

If you plan to take your pet bird with you on foreign travel, or your residence has been outside the United States for at least one year and you plan to travel to the United States with a pet bird, you will need to have a permit before you travel.

These regulations are in addition to any other existing requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and other applicable statutes. If you are unsure whether these regulations apply to you, contact the Service’s Division of Management Authority at the address provided.

Since most exotic pet birds, including parrots, cockatoos, and macaws (but excepting budgerigars and cockatiels) are species listed under CITES, most are affected by the ESA. The Service issues regulations that provide for permits to allow foreign travel with your pet bird (domestic travel and sales are not affected).

Law Enforcement on National Wildlife Refuges

Our federal wildlife officers carry a dual role of enforcing wildlife laws as well as ensuring the safety of all visitors on national wildlife refuges. Wildlife officers work closely with federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies. Because of their diverse skill set, officers have responded to numerous national and local emergencies, including hurricanes, tornados, floods and wildfires.

Learn more about National Wildlife Refuge Law Enforcement, including how to start your career as a federal wildlife officer.

Careers in law enforcement

Contact Us:

Looking for a media contact? Reach out to a regional spokesperson.

Share this page

Tweet this page on Twitter or follow @USFWSsoutheast

Share this page on Facebook or follow USFWSsoutheast.


Share this page on LinkedIn