Protected Wildlife Permits

Species Conservation Planning Section staff issues permits authorizing impacts to Florida's protected land-dwelling wildlife. Protected wildlife includes those species listed as Endangered, Threatened or Species of Special Concern. Also included are migratory birds External Website and other species protected by state rules. Some permits are available online and others are submitted via email applications to wildlifepermits@myfwc.com.

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Do I Need a Permit?  

The FWC issues permits for all state-designated Threatened species, Species of Special Concern, some non-listed species, and some federally listed species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits for most federally listed species. Permits are issued for activities that may cause take, as defined in the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.).

  • For state-Threatened species, take  is described in Rule 68A-27.001(4), F.A.C., as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in such conduct. The term ‘harm’ in the definition of take means an act which actually kills or injures fish or wildlife. Such act may include significant habitat modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding or sheltering. The term ‘harass’ in the definition of take means an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering”.
  • For state-listed Species of Special Concern and non-listed species, take  is described in Rule 68A-1.004(80), F.A.C., as “taking, attempting to take, pursuing, hunting, molesting, capturing, or killing any wildlife or freshwater fish, or their nests or eggs by any means whether or not such actions result in obtaining possession of such wildlife or freshwater fish or their nests or eggs”.

Permits are divided into two main categories:

  • intentional take, often referred to as scientific collecting or possession, and
  • incidental take, which occurs during otherwise legal activities.

Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines have been developed for 16 species. These guidelines can assist with determining whether a permit is needed, and provide information on minimizing impacts to wildlife. The guidelines should be reviewed prior to submitting a permit application.

There are also several policies that clarify when a permit is needed.

Activities authorized in rule, for which no permit is needed

  • Removal of nests for non-listed birds, as authorized in 68A-16.003, F.A.C. However, a USFWS permit may be needed for removal of an active nest. We recommend that you contact the USFWS Region 4 Migratory Bird Permit Office by phone at (404) 679-7070 or email permitsR4MB@fws.gov to determine what federal authorization or permits are required for any activity involving non-listed and listed migratory bird species, their nests and any part thereof. Please note that incidental take permits for birds are still referred to as migratory bird nest removal permits in FWC’s online permitting system.
  • Land management as authorized in Rule 68A-27.007(2)(c), F.A.C.: Land management activities that benefit wildlife and that are not inconsistent with Management Plans for species as defined in this rule chapter are authorized and do not require a permit authorizing incidental take despite any other provision of this section.
  • Agriculture and silviculture as authorized in Rule 68A-27.007(2)(d), F.A.C.: Agriculture, as defined in Section 570.02, F.S., conducted in accordance with Chapter 5I-8, F.A.C., effective 10-21-14, or Chapter 5M-18, F.A.C., effective 6-17-15, and the forestry External Website and agriculture External Website wildlife best management practices (BMPs) adopted in Rule 5I-8.001, F.A.C., by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service pursuant to Section 570.94, F.S., is authorized and does not require a permit authorizing incidental take despite any other provision of this section or Rule 68A-27.005, F.A.C

Permits

Scientific Collecting and Educational Possession

Scientific collecting permits allow for the intentional take of wildlife. Issuance of scientific collecting permits is intended to facilitate research and management, scientific collection, and educational activities under conditions that provide safeguards to the species. The standard for issuing permits for Species of Special Concern is found in Rule 68A-27.005, F.A.C.; The standards for issuing permits for state-Threatened species are found in Rule 68A-27.007(2)(a), F.A.C. For non-listed species, justifiable purposes for permit issuance are outlined in 68A-9.002, F.A.C. Most scientific collecting permits (including educational use) require approved research proposals or educational outreach plans. The information in the applicant guidance for scientific collecting permits Adobe PDF (including for educational possession) is designed to assist applicants in submitting a complete permit application. Please visit the FWC online permitting site to apply for scientific collecting permits. Please review the permitting standards below and provide supporting information Adobe PDF addressing the standards with other application materials. Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines provide additional species-specific information on scientific collecting requirements.

Some examples of commonly issued scientific collecting permits include:

  • Gopher tortoise research
  • Voucher or salvage of protected species
  • Surveying or research activities that require trapping and handling wildlife, including bird banding
  • Educational live possession, including possession of waif tortoises
  • Harassment of listed species to resolve wildlife conflicts

For state–listed Species of Special Concern, applications must demonstrate that activities will not be detrimental to the survival potential of the species, as described in Rule 68A-27.005, F.A.C. For state-Threatened species the following permitting standards from 68A-27.007(2)(a), F.A.C., apply:

The Commission may issue scientific collecting permits authorizing intentional take of Florida State-designated Threatened species for scientific or conservation purposes which will benefit the survival potential of the species except for species that have a permitting standard for intentional take in Rule 68A-27.003, F.A.C., and then that standard will apply. For purposes of this rule, a scientific or conservation purpose shall mean activities that further the conservation or survival of the species, including collection of scientific data needed for conservation or management of the species.

The following factors shall be considered in determining whether there is a scientific or conservation purpose which will benefit the survival potential of the species;

  1. Whether the purpose for which the permit is required is adequate to justify removing specimens of the species if removed from the wild;
  2. The probable direct or indirect effect which issuing the permit would have on the wild population of the species sought to be taken;
  3. Whether the permit would conflict with any program intended to enhance the survival of the species sought to be taken;
  4. Whether the purpose of the permit would likely reduce the threat of extinction for the species sought to be taken;
  5. The opinions or views of scientists or other persons or organizations having expertise concerning the species sought to be taken;
  6. Whether the expertise, facilities, or other resources available to the applicant are adequate to successfully accomplish the objective stated in the application; and,
  7. Human safety.

Listed Species Incidental Take Permits

The FWC issues incidental take permits for take that is incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. Applicants should review the incidental take application checklist Adobe PDF. Permits for gopher tortoises (relocation), Florida burrowing owls, and other state-listed birds can be applied for online. Note that incidental take permits for state-listed birds are applied for under the Migratory Bird Nest Removal Permit application. Applications for all other species should be submitted to wildlifepermits@myfwc.com, as described on the form. Applicants should define the full impact on the species and review the permitting standards and evaluation factors below, making sure to include these as they describe methods proposed to minimize take, and outline how conservation or scientific benefit will be achieved. Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines provide additional species-specific information on minimizing and mitigating for take.

The Commission may issue permits authorizing incidental take of state-designated Threatened Species upon a conclusion that the following permitting standards have been met: the standards for species that have a permitting standard for incidental take in Rule 68A-27.003, F.A.C., take precedence; for all other state-designated Threatened Species, the permit may be issued when there is a scientific or conservation benefit and only upon a showing by the applicant that the permitted activity will not have a negative impact on the survival potential of the species. Factors which shall be considered in determining whether a permit may be granted are:

  1. The objectives of a federal recovery plan or a state management plan for the species sought to be taken;
  2. The foreseeable long-range impact over time if take of the species is authorized;
  3. The impacts to other fish and wildlife species if take is authorized;
  4. The extent of injury, harm or loss of the species;
  5. Whether the incidental take could reasonably be avoided, minimized or mitigated by the permit applicant;
  6. Human safety; and,
  7. Other factors relevant to the conservation and management of the species.

Florida’s Imperiled Species Management Plan PDF Document provides the following definitions for conservation and scientific benefit, as well as context as to when they may apply:

Conservation Benefit ‐ Applications for incidental take of state‐Threatened species will be considered on a case‐ by‐case basis. Through consideration of the seven evaluation factors listed in Rule 68A‐27.007, F.A.C, it must be clear that any proposed take is counterbalanced, and there is an additional benefit for the loss of species or habitat components supporting the essential behavioral patterns of breeding, feeding, or sheltering. The level of counterbalance plus additional conservation is determined by review of the proposed activity through the seven evaluation factors. The level is specific to how the application addresses the seven evaluation factors and to the species concerned.

Scientific Benefit ‐ Any study that would provide significant advancement in knowledge or management of the species, as identified in the Species Action Plan or other management or recovery documents, may be used to meet the condition of scientific benefit. Because scientific benefit can be used in lieu of conservation benefit, the value to the species must be measured against species needs and conservation actions, as determined by FWC. Scientific benefit may vary based on species and our current knowledge of species needs and habitats.

Florida Burrowing Owls

The Florida burrowing owl, a state-Threatened species, inhabits open areas such as dry prairies, pastures, agricultural fields, golf courses, airports, and vacant lots in some urban areas. Activities such as residential and commercial development can result in destruction of burrows or harassment of breeding pairs of burrowing owls. Please refer to the burrowing owl Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines (Guidelines) for additional guidance on obtaining a permit. Incidental take permits currently are referred to as migratory bird nest removal permits in the online permitting system. Applicants should include the Burrowing Owl Supplemental Application PDF Document with their online application materials.

Incidental take permits for burrowing owls often involve scoping and excavating burrowing owl burrows. Permittees or their designated agents must meet minimum qualifications PDF Document to scope or excavate a burrow as part of an incidental take permit. Training videos necessary to complete minimum qualifications are available on our Online Training site. The videos are designed both to provide a refresher for experienced applicants and to provide training for those with less experience.

Mitigation options and the categories in the tables below are described in the burrowing owl Guidelines. If mitigation involves a financial contribution, current mitigation contribution amounts, effective February 8, 2018, are in the table below and will be adjusted over time to keep pace with inflation. Please refer to the Guidelines to determine the mitigation category that is applicable for a particular project or activity. Tying changes to the Consumer Price Index will ensure mitigation contributions are adjusted relative to actual price increases or decreases. The FWC will use the “All Urban Consumers Price Index” (CPI-U), which reflects the highest percentage of the population, and the CPI-U for the Southeast region. Information on the Consumer Price Index is available online at bls.gov/cpi External Website.

Category 1: Mitigation for project activities that do not involve changes in foraging habitat (per burrow destroyed or breeding pair harassed)

Financial contribution alone

$1,900

Financial contribution with offsite starter or artificial burrows

$600

Onsite starter or artificial burrows

$0

 

Category 2: Mitigation for project activities with changes in foraging habitat but no significant habitat modification (per burrow cluster)

Financial contribution alone

$1,900

Financial contribution with starter burrows

$850

Financial contribution with artificial burrows

$600

  

Category 3: Mitigation for project activities that result in significant habitat modification

Evaluated on a case by case basis -- please see the Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines for mitigation options

Case by case

 

Mitigation options for projects that do not fit in any of the three categories

Evaluated on a case by case basis -- please contact the FWC's Protected Species Permitting Office for assistance

Case by case

 

Non-Florida Resident Falconry

Non-Florida resident raptor take permits are issued to licensed out-of-state falconers wishing to capture raptors in Florida. Falconers must possess a valid falconry license from both their home state wildlife agency and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS External Website). Non-resident falconers must also abide by the state falconry Rule 68A-9.005(9)(e) F.A.C. External Website The non-Florida resident raptor take permit PDF Document checklist (includes educational possession) will assist you in gathering the information required to apply for the online permit.

Florida residents seeking to become a licensed falconer should visit the FWC Division of Law Enforcement Captive Wildlife webpage for additional information on applying for the Florida falconry license.

Nest removal from man-made structure for osprey and other raptors

Florida ospreys (Pandion haliaetus), including the state-listed Monroe county population, commonly nest on power poles, communication towers, water navigation devices, lighting fixtures, outdoor billboards and other man-made structures as well as in decaying or dead trees. These large nests sometimes render man-made structures inoperable or present a safety hazard. Inactive nest removal (i.e., nests containing no eggs or flightless young) no longer requires a permit from FWC, however if the species is state-listed, the removal of nests from man-made structures must be conducted in accordance with the State-Listed Species and Man-Made Structures Policy PDF Document. For State-listed species, requests for removal of active nests (i.e., containing eggs and/or flightless chicks) are issued if the nest presents a safety hazard for the birds or humans. For non-listed species, active nest removal permits are no longer issued by FWC, however a federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act permit may be required. Prior guidance on removal of osprey nests required the permittee to build a replacement nesting platform/structure of comparable or better quality than the compromised nest support. Although no longer required, it is still recommended as a conservation practice that benefits osprey.

Other migratory bird species External Website (particularly raptors such as hawks and owls) occasionally nest on man-made structures, potentially causing conflicts. Some birds may engage in attacking behaviors, presenting a human-safety hazard. In the past, nest removal permits have been issued to address these situations, however these permits are no longer issued by FWC for non-listed species. Please note that a federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act permit may be required. The guide to dealing with aggressive raptors provides information on how to address this situation.

The FWC wildlife assistance page provides information on removing or deterring nuisance wildlife. If the species is state-listed, contact your Regional Species Conservation Biologist or the Protected Species Permit Office for technical assistance.

How to Apply for a Permit

Please visit the FWC online permitting site to apply for all scientific collecting permits, gopher tortoise permits and incidental take permits for the Florida burrowing owl and other state listed birds. Incidental take permits for the Florida burrowing owl and other state-listed birds currently are referred to as migratory bird nest removal permits in the online system. The scientific collecting application is used for both scientific collecting activities and listed or protected wildlife species educational use activities. Applications submitted in the Online Permitting Site may be accessed at any time to check the status of any submitted application. This feature is available to any public user of the site.

All other incidental take permit applications should be submitted to the Species Conservation Planning Protected Species Permit Office by email or hard copy; email is preferred. All other requests for special purpose land dwelling listed/protected species permits not specified on this page should be prepared and submitted to the SCP Protected Species Permit Office.

Paper-based applications are also available upon request. However, online application submission is preferred for a more timely review process. Please contact the Protected Species Permit Office to request a paper application.

Timely response

The Florida Statutes require state agencies to approve or deny complete applications within 90 days of receipt. Therefore, we ask you to submit a complete application and include all relevant information as attachments (e.g. scientific project proposals, educational plans and brochures, site plans, photographs, etc.). Complete permit applications, renewals, and amendment requests should be submitted a minimum of 45 days prior to the requested effective date.

Technical assistance

Contact the Species Conservation Planning staff for protected wildlife permitting issues or technical assistance.



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