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Step-by-Step Guide to a Migratory Bird Depredation Permit

As the Federal regulatory wildlife agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) located within the Department of the Interior, issues permits under various wildlife laws and treaties, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Wildlife Services (WS), located within the Department of Agriculture (USDA), is a non-regulatory program with a mission to provide Federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts allowing people and wildlife to coexist.

WS will assist in making your request for a Migratory Bird Depredation Permit (Permit) when migratory birds cause site-specific damage. You -- the applicant -- submits the completed application to the appropriate USFWS regional office.

When conditions warrant, the USFWS can issue an individual or group the needed Permit to address damage caused by migratory birds by capturing or lethally removing the birds. This take can include any migratory birds -- except for eagles and threatened and endangered species. You should use non-lethal methods prior to applying for a Permit and continue using non-lethal management in conjunction with the lethal methods allowed on the permit.

A Permit designates the species, methods, and the number of birds that may be taken, and are only valid for the individuals named on the permits, and the permit locations and dates.

The Permit and application process involves the following steps:

Step 1.  Contact USDA WS for technical assistance, which includes a review of the site’s situation and suggestions for nonlethal methods to address the damage problem. These methods, such as habitat management and dispersal, must be tried or deemed likely to be ineffective.

Step 2.  If a Permit is justified, a USDA WS biologist will complete a WS Form 37, which documents the damage caused by the birds. (See below for more Form 37 information.)

Step 3.  The individual or group must submit the Permit application to the USFWS, including the WS Form 37 and a Permit application fee. Some states may have slightly different or additional requirements; your USDA WS biologist can provide guidance on such issues.

Step 4.  Once received, be sure to review your Permit. Make note of the effective and expiration dates, number of wildlife allowed to be taken, approved disposal methods, approved subpermitees (if any), reporting requirements etc.

Step 5.  Keep track of any take. You will need to report your take and disposition of the carcass at the expiration of the permit.

Permits must be renewed annually. USFWS will send you a renewal packet and you will need to re-submit an application to the USFWS. The application will require previous take, nonlethal efforts undertaken, a newly completed WS Form 37 and your permit application fee.

WS Form 37 and USDA’s Role in the Permit Process

Although the USDA WS program is not a regulatory program, we have a role in some regulatory processes. WS biologists conduct damage evaluations to provide information to the USFWS and state wildlife agencies as part of their permit processes. WS provides technical assistance, or information and guidance, to callers with migratory bird conflicts. Lethal take may be required to resolve these issues or reinforce the effectiveness of non-lethal dispersal. In such cases, WS biologists complete an evaluation form (WS Form 37) that describes the incident and documents our recommendations for management options. When lethal take is recommended, the individual or group experiencing problems will submit the Form 37 with the application and application fee to the USFWS and state agencies.

(September 2019)

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