Wildlife Branch Research Permitting

snake, butterfly, bird, salamander, fisher

The Wildlife Branch issues permits for scientific research, education, and/or propagation activities involving the take and/or possession of amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and select terrestrial invertebrates. The type of permit needed for these purposes varies depending on the special status designation of wildlife being targeted or wildlife that may be incidentally captured while conducting the authorized activities. Permits are issued to the individual or entity responsible for overseeing the activity.

What type of permit(s) do I need?

Scientific Collecting Permit (SCP) - SCPs are required for scientific research, education, and/or propagation activities with any amphibian, reptile, bird, or mammal species that is not listed under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). SCPs are also required for activities with any invertebrate listed on the California Terrestrial and Vernal Pool Invertebrates of Conservation Priority List.

Title 14 § 650 / Fish and Game Code § 1002 and 1002.5


What kind of wildlife can be taken under an SCP?

For the purposes of SCPs, "wildlife" is defined to include all life stages of any native or nonnative (e.g., American bullfrog) organism in the following plant or animal taxonomic groups: amphibians, anadromous fish, birds, inland non-anadromous fish, invertebrates, mammals (excluding marine mammals and burros), marine algae and plants, marine fish, and reptiles.

Under the jurisdiction of the CDFW Wildlife Branch, SCPs may be issued for activities with a subset of the wildlife listed above, including species, subspecies, and populations of amphibians, birds, mammals, reptiles, and terrestrial and vernal pool invertebrates on the link opens in new windowCalifornia Terrestrial and Vernal Pool Invertebrates of Conservation Priority List (dated June 12, 2017)(PDF).

Animals that are listed as Threatened, Endangered, or Candidate under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and Fully Protected species may not be taken or possessed pursuant to an SCP and require a separate CESA Memorandum of Understanding for research purposes. In addition, marine mammals listed under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and wild, feral, or undomesticated burros may not be taken or possessed pursuant to an SCP.

Under Fish and Game Code § 86, "take" means to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill.


When do I need an SCP? Who can apply for an SCP?

SCPs are required to take or possess wildlife for scientific, educational, or propagation purposes in California. SCPs may be issues to individuals or entities who are employees, contractors, and/or volunteers of government agencies, Native American tribes, zoological gardens, museums and aquariums, non-governmental and non-profit organizations, biological consulting firms, educational or academic institutions, and appropriate businesses (e.g. timber and forest management, utilities, and biomedical research).


Can I use an SCP for commercial activities?

The commercial sale, trade, or barter of wildlife taken or possessed pursuant to an SCP is prohibited. Educational programs approved by CDFW to display live or dead wildlife specimens at a public scientific or educational institution are not considered commercial activities for this purpose.


What type of SCP do I need?

General Use SCP

General Use SCPs are issued for one or more wildlife groups under the jurisdiction of a single CDFW review program (i.e. Inland Fisheries, Marine, or Terrestrial Wildlife) and only for the purpose of scientific research, educational, and some propagation activities involving common wildlife species using standardized methods with low risk of accidental injury or mortality. Terrestrial Wildlife General Use SCPs may be issued for limited activities with amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and terrestrial and vernal pool invertebrates, excluding certain animals and life stages considered "Prohibited Wildlife" for these purposes. Activities involving inland fish or marine organisms need to be covered under the separate General Use SCPs.

Activities are limited to survey and monitoring activities that involve capture, handling, and release of terrestrial wildlife for identification and documentation purposes. In addition, sacrifice of some non-native amphibians reptiles, and small mammals incidentally encountered or captured during field activities may be authorized. Capture methods are limited to: hand, dip net, lizard noose, snake tongs, and snake hook for amphibians and/or reptiles; box or cage traps for small mammals; and mist nets for birds. Marking methods are limited to metal bands for birds and standard non-toxic, non-invasive methods for amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals. General Use Authorizations for terrestrial wildlife are listed on the General Use SCP application form, Authorization W1-W6 - form DFW 1379GW for Terrestrial Wildlife.

Wildlife incidentally killed during permitted activities and/or encountered dead in the field may be salvaged and deposited in a public scientific or educational institution, zoological park, museum, or scientific entity in California within three (3) months of acquisition.

Specific Use SCP

Specific Use SCPs may be issued for a broader range of wildlife, including species of special concern and animals considered "Prohibited Wildlife" under the General Use SCP, but excluding CESA-listed animals. Specific Use SCPs may cover more activities, including those with a higher likelihood of accidental injury or mortality (e.g., sacrifice, translocation) and can be issued for wildlife groups or species under the jurisdiction of one or more CDFW review programs in order to study and/or conduct scientific research, educational, and propagation activities under a wider variety of equipment, methods, and procedures than allowed under a General Use SCP. As such, applicants need to provide a more detailed description of all proposed activities including the species, geographic locations, methods, and procedures.

Specific Use SCPs may be issued for an individual research, education, or propagation study or a planned undertaking that combines one or more activities or studies under a unified scope. In this context, a focused study involves activities that address specific research question(s) usually within a defined temporal and geographic scope. In contract a planned undertaking may involve multiple studies and/or activities sharing a fundamental scope with unifying goals and objectives. Applicants need to provide adequate justification and a clear description of the unifying goals and objectives for a complex planned undertaking being proposed under one Specific Use SCP.


What are "Prohibited Wildlife"?

CDFW has designated certain special status animals and taxonomic groups as "Prohibited Wildlife" and only a Specific Use SCP may be used to authorize intentional take of those wildlife species. "Prohibited Wildlife" were formally known as "Standard Exceptions" for SCPs. CDFW periodically publishes reports identifying the wildlife species, beyond those State or federally-listed, that represent our highest conservation priorities and highlight species in need of conservation action. These species assessments are based on population trends, threats, distribution, abundance, habitat, and ecological considerations and include recommendations and priorities for research, management, and monitoring.

A species' status as California Species of Special Concern, California Terrestrial and Vernal Pool Invertebrates of Conservation Priority, and/or other Prohibited Wildlife is considered during the application review process.

  • California Species of Special Concern
  • Federally-listed Threatened or Endangered species
  • Eggs of all native amphibians and reptiles; nests, eggs, and/or nestlings of all birds; and nests of all mammals
  • Sea turtles (Family Cheloniidae), Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), and Yellow-bellied seasnake (Hydophis [=Pelamis] platurus)
  • All birds in the families and orders:
    • Anatidae - ducks, geese and swans
    • Galliformes - gallinaceous birds
    • Procellariiformes - tube-nosed swimmers
    • Phalacrocoracidae - cormorants
    • Pelecanidae - pelicans
    • Ardeidae - herons, bitterns, and allies
    • Threskiomithidae - ibises and spoonbills
    • Accipitriformes - hawks, kites, eagles, vultures, and allies
    • Gruiformes - rails, cranes, and allies
    • Alcidae - auks, murres, and puffins
    • Laridae - gulls, terns, and skimmers
    • Strigiformes - owls
    • Trochilidae - hummingbirds
    • Falconiformes - caracaras and falcons
  • All mammals in the families and orders:
    • Didelphimorphia - opossums
    • Lagamorpha - pikas, hares, and rabbits
    • Chiroptera - bats
    • Carnivora - carnivores
    • Cetacea - whales
    • Perissodactyla and Artiodactyla - ungulates
    • Castoridae - beavers
    • Dipodidae - jumping mice
    • Erethizontidae - New World porcupine
    • Other mammals not naturally occurring in the wild in California (e.g., Primates)

What terrestrial invertebrates are exempt from SCPs?

Most terrestrial invertebrates that occur in non-aquatic terrestrial environments (i.e. above mean high tide of marine waters or aerial life stage of aquatic insects) are exempt from an SCP except:

  • Terrestrial Wildlife General Use SCPs are required for activities with terrestrial invertebrates that occur in vernal pools, or other ephemeral waters that support vernal pool invertebrates, but do not normally support finfish;
  • A General Use SCP is required for non-routine incidental capture of any taxa covered on the California Terrestrial and Vernal Pool Invertebrates of Conservation Priority List during the course of field activities; or
  • A Specific Use SCP is required for the intentional take (e.g., capture) of any taxa covered on the California Terrestrial and Vernal Pool Invertebrates of Conservation Priority List

Applying for a SCP

CDFW has developed a new online system for completing your application. The online system can be found on the CDFW Scientific Collecting Permits web page.


SCP Contact Information

Justin Garcia
CDFW Wildlife Branch
Justin.Garcia@wildlife.ca.gov
(916) 323-0644

CESA Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) - CESA MOUs are required for scientific research, education, and/or management activities with any CESA-listed Threatened, Endangered, or Candidate species. If the methods authorized could result in the incidental take of other non-State-listed wildlife, an SCP may also be required.

Fish and Game Code § 2081(a)


When do I need a CESA MOU?

CESA MOUs are required to import, export, take, or possess any CESA-listed species or CESA-candidate species for scientific, educational, or management purposes. CESA MOUs may be issued to individuals, public agencies, universities, zoological gardens, and scientific or educational institutions. A Fully Protected Species MOU is needed for any species which is dually listed as both a fully protected species and as endangered, threatened, or candidate under state law.


What species can I take with a CESA MOU?

Animals listed as Endangered, Threatened, or Candidate under the California Endangered Species Act

* Refer to the link will open in new windowEndangered and Threatened Animals List and the link will open in new windowSpecial Animals List for CESA and other special status designations


Applying for a CESA MOU

CESA MOUs are issued by the respective CDFW branches (i.e., Wildlife Branch and Fisheries Branch) depending on the taxonomic group. CDFW Wildlife Branch issues CESA MOUs for CESA-listed amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles. There is no fee or application form needed however, the following information may be sent via email to either the primary CESA MOU contact listed below or the designated Wildlife Branch biologist.

  • Cover letter from the Principal Investigator with the request
  • Resume or Curriculum vitae, and a statement of qualifications
  • Letters of recommendations
  • Scientific research proposal
    • Title of the research and the Principal Investigator's contact information
    • Introduction (background and justification)
    • Study Area
    • Methods and Procedures
    • Schedule of Work
    • Literature Citations
    • List of Authorized Individuals
  • Copies of all other permits (or permit applications) related to the project

CESA MOU Contact Information

Esther Burkett
CDFW Wildlife Branch
Esther.Burkett@wildlife.ca.gov
(916) 531-1594

Fully Protected (FP) Species Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) - FP-MOUs are required for scientific research and recovery activities with any California Fully Protected species. As with CESA MOUs, a SCP may also be required if the authorized methods could result in the incidental take of other non-State-listed wildlife.

Fish and Game Code § 3511, 4700, 5050, 5515


When do I need a FP MOU?

FP MOUs are required to take any fully protected species for scientific research purposes, including efforts to recover fully protected, threatened, or endangered species. FP MOUs may be issued to individuals, public agencies, universities, zoological gardens, and scientific or educational institutions.


What species can I take with a FP MOU?

State law designates certain amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles as fully protected in California. Most fully protected species have also been listed as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. More information and the full list of fully protected species in California is available on the Fully Protected Species web page. The CDFW Wildlife Branch oversees and coordinates statewide research and recovery efforts for nine mammals, thirteen birds, two reptiles, and three amphibians species that are fully protected.


Applying for a FPS MOU

FP MOUs are issued by the respective CDFW branches (i.e., Wildlife Branch and Fisheries Branch) depending on the taxonomic group. CDFW Wildlife Branch issues FP MOUs for fully protected amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles. There is no fee or application form needed however, the following information may be sent via email to either the primary FP MOU contact listed below or the designated Wildlife Branch biologist.

  • Cover letter from the Principal Investigator with the request
  • Resume or Curriculum vitae, and a statement of qualifications
  • Letters of recommendations
  • Scientific research proposal
    • Title of the research and the Principal Investigator's contact information
    • Introduction (background and justification)
    • Study Area
    • Methods and Procedures
    • Schedule of Work
    • Literature Citations
    • List of Authorized Individuals
  • Copies of all other permits (or permit applications) related to the project

Public Interest Notice (PIN) Requirement for Fully Protected Species

The PIN is a summary document prepared by CDFW which describes the proposed research. A PIN is required prior to the issuance of any FP MOU. CDFW submits the PIN to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). OAL publishes the PIN in the California Regulatory Notice Register for a 30-day public review/comment period.


FP MOU Contact Information

Esther Burkett
CDFW Wildlife Branch
Esther.Burkett@wildlife.ca.gov
(916) 531-1594

What other permit(s) might I need?

Federal Permits: the following federal permits may also be needed depending on the species, its status designation, activities, and location of the proposed activities

Other State Permits: the following state permits may also be needed depending on the wildlife species, activities and location of the proposed activities:

Species of Special Concern

In an effort to protect and enhance California's biodiversity, CDFW developed a process for identifying and managing sensitive species, as known as "Species of Special Concern". Species of Special Concern is an administrative designation and carries no formal legal status. The intent of designating SSCs is to:

  • focus attention on animals at conservation risk by the Department, other State, local and Federal governmental entities, regulators, land managers, planners, consulting biologists, and others;
  • stimulate research on poorly known species;
  • achieve conservation and recovery of these animals before they meet California Endangered Species Act criteria for listing as threatened or endangered

See CDFW's Species of Special Concern web page for more information.

Survey and Monitoring Protocols

To assist permittees, CDFW has compiled a list of available survey and monitoring protocols and guidelines for plants, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The protocols and guidelines available on CDFW's Survey and Monitoring Protocols and Guidelines web page are from various sources and are recommended as tested and reviewed methods for their intended purposes.