U.S. Fish and Wildlife Import/Export Regulations for Bison

Scott Peltier
US Fish and Wildlife Service


The following letter is addressed to bison producers in the US. It outlines the regulations of the US Fish and Wildlife Service that pertain to importing and exporting bison. It explains the rules which govern the importation and exportation of woods and woods cross bison in the US. If you are importing or exporting bison there are other regulations from the departments of agriculture that you must adhere to as well. For complete requirements contact your local Canadian Food Inspection Agency office.

January 4, 1999

Dear Bison Importers/Exporters:

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has received complaints concerning importation and/or exportation of Woods Bison between the United States and Canada, Through this letter, the Service is providing information about the U.S. Laws and regulations that the Buffalo/Bison industry may not have been fully aware of or fully understood. The Service's intent is to provide a better understanding of the laws and regulations, so as to prevent future unintentional violations

A review of the Wood Bison protection Status is as follows:

1. Under the Endangered Species Act:

On 7/2/70, Wood bison were listed as endangered under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Importation of Wood bison into the United States without a permit from the United States Office of Management Authority (OMA) would be unlawful. Endangered Species Act import permits for Wood bison may be issued only for scientific research or enhancement of propagation or survival of the species. ESA importation permits are not issued for the commercial importation of Wood bison.

The provisions of the ESA do not apply to hybrids of species, thus no ESA permits would be required under the Endangered Species Act for the importation of the Wood/Plains bison hybrids into the United States. Captive bred Wood bison that are not hybrids would still come under the provisions of the Endangered status importation prohibitions.

2. Under the Convention on International Trade in Endanqered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES):

From 7/1/70 through 9/17/97, Wood bison were listed under the provisions of CITES as an Appendix I species. As an Appendix I species, Wood bison could not be imported for commercial purposes. A CITES Foreign Export Permit from Canada as well as a CITES Import Permit from the United States obtained prior to importation would be required in order to import Appendix I species for noncommercial purposes.

CITES provides for the status of captive bred Appendix I species to be down graded to Appendix II if raised in a registered captive breeding facility approved by the Convention. However, since there are no registered captive breeding facilities for Wood bison approved by the Convention in Canada, Appendix I captive bred Wood bison and their offspring would remain Appendix I under the provisions of CITES.

Hybrid Wood bison, i.e. Wood/Plains bison crosses under CITES remained Appendix I, the same as a pure bred Wood bison and could not be imported.

However, as of 9/18/97, the status of Wood bison was changed from Appendix I to Appendix II under CITES. The authorization for change in status of the Wood bison from Appendix I to Appendix II is documented in the Federal Register, Vol. 62 No.163, dated 8/22/97.

Captive bred Wood bison and their offspring remain Appendix II since there is no registered captive breeding facilities for Wood bison approved by the Convention in Canada.

Purebred Wood Bison can be imported only by ESA Rermit for scientific research or enhancement of propagation or survival of the species.

Wood/Plains bison hybrids fall under the provisions of CITES Appendix II prohibitions. This means that Wood/Plains hybrids can be imported if the required CITES Foreign Export Permits are obtained from Canada prior to the import. Likewise, a U.S. CITES export permit is required to export Wood/Plains bison hybrids.

The change in status of Wood bison under the provisions of CITES from Appendix I to Appendix II has no effect on the status of purebred Wood bison as endangered under the ESA.

In addition, under Title 50 of the United States Federa1 Regulations, importers/exporters must supply the identity of all wildlife that is imported/exported, by scientific name to the species level or if any subspecies is protected, identity must be made to the sub-specific level. Filing an incomplete or inaccurate Declaration of Import/Export, Form 3-177 is a violation of Title 50 part 14.61 and/or 14.63. Also filing an incomplete or inaccurate Form 3-177 is grounds for refused clearance of a shipment and possible seizure.

In the case of bison, there are two separate subspecies that need to be correctly identified on the Declarations of Import/Export, Form 3 -177. The first is theplains bison which is identified as Bison bison bison. The second subspecies is the wood bison which is identified as Bison bison athabascae. If the import/export is for a hybrid of the two subspecies, then you must identify this on the Form 3-177. Therefore, the Declaration of Import/Export, Form 3-177 must be completely and accurately filled out to include the full common name and complete scientific name for the wildlife being imported or exported.

The import or export of a hybrid wood/plains bison would also require that the importer/exporter obtain a designated port exception permit (DPED) from the Fish and Wildlife Service, if the import/export was for a commercial purpose because the hybrid wood/plains animals require that the importer/exporter obtain a Canadian CITES Appendix II export permit.

Importers and exporters of bison, for commercial purposes, must have anImport/Export License or utilize a broker who has an import/export license. All commercial wildlife shipments are required to be imported or exported through a commercial border port. The North Dakota Commercial Ports are Dunseith, Pembina, or Portal. The Montana Commercial Ports are Raymond and Sweetgrass

For a complete list of the commercial border ports for the other border States, see title 50 Code of Federal Regulations Part 14.16.

It should be noted that all of the above listed regulatory requirements apply to live bison as well as parts, products, hides, etc.

Finally, a word of caution. There are penalties associated with violations of any of these laws and regulations. A violation of the Endangered Species Act is a federal misdemeanor and subjects a person to maximum penalties of a $100,000 fine and/or up to one (1) year in prison.

The law that all importers and exporters need to be aware of is the Federal Lacey Act. This law makes it illegal to import/export wildlife in violation of other Federal, State, Tribal, or foreign laws or regulations. A commercial violation of the Lacey Act is a Federal felony and subjects a person to maximum penalties of a $250,000 fine and/or more than one (1) year in prison. The Lacey Act also includes violations involving falsifying import/export records or mis-identifying wildlife.

Please distribute this letter and information to all your association members.

If you have any questions, please call United States Fish Wildlife ServiceWildlife Inspector Scott Peltier at(701) 263-4462 or Senior Resident Agent Robert Prieksat at (605) 224-1001.

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