usfws regulation question

Doug Yanega dyanega at
Tue Nov 18 08:11:04 EST 1997

Norbert Kondla asked:

>i would welcome up to date simple english translation of what a canadian has
>to do to avoid breaking the law in the following situation: weekend trip by
>car across the border to collect non-protected insectsin a neighboring state.
>is it legal to bring the dead beasties back at any normal border crossing, is
>some kind of form needed from US customs and is there a difference in rules
>between scientists and those who study insects for fun. thx in advance for

Since the USFWS regulations cover shipments to/from the US, I'm not
entirely sure they would apply to you at all (does a hand-carried box
technically constitute a "shipment"?). Even if they did, as you are a
scientist, the most that would be required is that you file form 3-177
within 180 days. Unless, of course, any of the insects were collected from
a US National Park or such, or if you were selling the material after you
got back to Canada. Unless the commercial value of the specimens is very
large, there should be no customs tariffs or paperwork whatsoever.
        If the specimens were being mailed from the US to Canada, that
would be different, because they would then unambiguously be a "shipment",
and be required to be sent via one of the "official designated ports." If
you are not a scientist, nor affiliated with an accredited scientific
institution, then it appears you'd also likely have to deal with the full
original terms of the regulations (one of which is that if you have more
than 8 of any one species the entire shipment is automatically classified
as "commercial" and thus subject to import/export fees).
        As always, this is just my personal interpretation of the *literal*
requirements of the rules - from the looks of things, virtually every time
someone has contacted a USFWS representative and ASKED, the agent has given
their own personal interpretation, which generally is along the lines of
"Well, frankly, unless we really suspect someone is carrying on genuine
trade in wildlife products, we don't really care or try to enforce
anything, especially with insects". The buzzword for this approach is
"internal policy" and it varies unpredictably from office to office,
officer to officer, and the only real way you can be sure that you're
complying with what is required is to locate the USFWS agent with
jurisdiction over where you're collecting, and get them to *tell* you what
they want from you. It *appears* that sometimes, if you actually go to the
trouble of doing this, they'll tell you not to bother with any paperwork at
        This is the most frustrating aspect of this whole business, really
- that there is such a discrepancy between the letter of the law and how it
is enforced. After all, there clearly is now and always has been a lot of
traffic which is in technical violation of the rules (how many people here
besides me and Ken Philip have ever seen form 3-177 and filed it?), but NOT
in violation of "internal policy". What it comes down to then is that
people are in the habit of ignoring the rules, and no one at USFWS really
cares, but all it takes is that one time where a USFWS agent gets wind of
something and decides to *apply* the rules to get everyone in an uproar
again. When they play a "selective enforcement" game, it makes every
*actual* enforcement action they take seem like a personal vendetta.
Basically, the rules seem to exist solely to give the USFWS a legal leg to
stand on when they really need to haul someone into court.

Just my take on things,

Doug Yanega    Depto. de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ciencias Biologicas,
Univ. Fed. de Minas Gerais, Cx.P. 486, 30.161-970 Belo Horizonte, MG   BRAZIL
phone: 031-449-2579, fax: 031-441-5481  (from U.S., prefix 011-55)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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