Fish and Wildlife in Captivity
Learn about the laws pertaining to the possession of wildlife in Maine before acquiring an animal or bringing one into the state when you move.
- A brief summary of these laws provided is below. This is only a summary and people should refer to the appropriate Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Rule Chapter 7 on Captive Wildlife (MS Word) for details as well as Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Laws contained in 12 M.R.S. §12152.
- Maine's laws regarding the possession of wildlife are among the strictest in the country. The goal of these laws is to protect the interests of wildlife, the public and our natural resources. The Department recommends prospective pet owners to consult with a veterinarian to determine what species is suitable for their household's abilities, lifestyle and commitment to pet care.
- The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has statutory responsibility for all freshwater fish (The Maine Department of Marine Resources regulates saltwater fish), reptiles and amphibians, birds, and mammals, regardless of whether they are native to Maine or occur elsewhere in the world. In some instances, such as species on the federal endangered or threatened species list, animals used for agricultural purposes or migratory birds, authority may be shared with the federal government or another Maine agency.
- Maine wildlife laws apply to wildlife sold in pet stores in Maine. Maine pet stores are regulated and inspected by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry.
- Purchasers can reasonably assume that an animal for sale in a Maine pet store is legal.
- Do not assume that animals for sale in other states, including those states adjacent to Maine, are lawful in Maine.
- Be wary of animals advertised for sale on the Internet or in newspapers. These animals may or may not be lawful at the point of origin, but illegal to bring in to Maine.
- Some towns may have municipal ordinances which prohibit certain invertebrates such as scorpions, tarantulas or other venomous spiders, or which further regulate the keeping of animals which the Department otherwise allows. Check with your city or town to comply with both state and local laws.
Learn More about Maine's Classification of Species:
1. Unrestricted List (PDF) (no permit needed): Maine law allows the Department to maintain a list of species of fish and wildlife, including tropical fish and invertebrates, which do not require an importation, exhibition, or possession permit, and may be traded by commercial pet shops. Unrestricted Species must be maintained in a humane and safe manner that does not jeopardize public health and safety, the welfare of the animal, or cause a public disturbance.
2. Prohibited Species (cannot be possessed with or without a permit, exceptions apply): No permit shall be granted for prohibited species which the commissioner, in consultation with the captive wildlife technical committee have determined pose a significant risk to Maine's native flora and fauna, to the public welfare or to domestic animals. The commissioner may make an exception and authorize limited possession of these species by accredited research facilities in cases where there is a significant public benefit. The Prohibited Species List is located within section 7.18.
- Monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus);
- Mute swan (Cygnus olor);
3. Restricted Species (Permit is required to possess): Restricted Species shall require a permit before the species can be possessed, imported, exhibited, propagated, or rehabilitated. For both Categories of Restricted Species there are multiple credentials that must be met in order to qualify for a permit to possess the species.There are two categories of restricted species, see description below:
- Category 1 Restricted Species: A species is placed in Category 1 when:
It does not meet the criteria of a Prohibited Species and when:
It is included on the U.S. list of endangered or threatened species, is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as ‘Endangered, ‘Critically Endangered’ or Extinct in the Wild or is state listed as Endangered or Threatened across a significant portion of its native range; or
It is known to harbor an agent substantially harmful to humans, domestic livestock, poultry, native wildlife, other animals, or Maine flora; or
It has a geographic distribution and life requisites that would allow it to survive in Maine if accidentally or intentionally introduced into the wild; or
It is included on the USFWS list of Injurious Species; or
It is capable of inflicting serious bodily injury to humans; or
It has unique requirements for housing or care that cannot be provided outside of professionally designed and operated facilities.
To possess a Category 1 Restricted Species a person must acquire either an exhibitor's or wildlife rehabilitator's permit or must be an accredited research facility or be a laboratory registered with the United States Department of Agriculture.
- Category 2 Restricted Species: A species is placed in Category 2 when:
It does not meet the criteria of a Prohibited Species or Category 1 Restricted Species and when:
It requires special housing or care that cannot be provided by persons without training or experience; or
It requires a special commitment to ensure proper care and welfare.
To possess a Category 2 Restricted Species a person must acquire either an exhibitor's or wildlife rehabilitator's permit or must be an accredited research facility or be a laboratory registered with the United States Department of Agriculture.
4. Unclassified Species: A person may not possess any species that has not been categorized. Any species which has not been identified as a Prohibited, Restricted, or Unrestricted species will not be eligible for a permit however a request may be made to review the categorization of a species.
5. Requests to Review or Change the Categorization of a Species: must be made on application forms provided by the department. Requests should be mailed to Wildlife Division Inland Fisheries & Wildlife 353 Water Street Augusta, ME 04330. Applicants shall bear the burden of proof in proving that a species belongs in the requested category. Applications submitted with supporting documentation are evaluated by the commissioner or commissioner's designee and the Technical Committee.
A. Commissioner's Evaluation Criteria for Review of Requests to Change Categorization of a Species: Considering the recommendations of the Technical Consulting Committee, which are advisory in nature, the commissioner may change the status of a species according to the criteria established in this section.
B. Notification: When the commissioner approves or denies a request for review of categorization, a written notification will be sent to the applicant. When the commissioner denies a request, the department will advise the individual or entity making the request of the basis for the denial.
Learn More about Maine's Permit Types
- Wildlife Importation Permit - Category 1 Restricted Species (PDF)
- Wildlife Importation Permit - Category 2 Restricted Species (PDF)
The commissioner may issue an importation permit to a person or institution, to import wildlife in the State. No species of wildlife, except those listed by the commissioner as Unrestricted or those which are in continuous transit through Maine as provided within Rule Chapter 7.11, shall be imported into Maine without a Wildlife Importation Permit issued by the commissioner. Importation includes transporting or relocating into Maine either on a permanent or temporary basis, any restricted.
- Fish Importation Permit (PDF) For more information, please contact David Russell at 207-287-2813.
- Fish Cultivation Permit (PDF) For more information, please contact Todd Langevin at 207-287-5261
- Fish Stocking in Private Ponds Learn about private pond fish stocking requirements and the application process.
- Wildlife Exhibitor Permit (PDF):The commissioner may issue an exhibitor permit to a person or institution, for the purpose of keeping wildlife (except wolf hybrids) in captivity for commercial exhibition, attracting trade, or for educational purposes.
- Wildlife Possession Permit (PDF): The commissioner may issue a general possession permit to a person or institution, to possess any Restricted Species, for the following purposes of serious professional or avocational husbandry, personal use, research or education.
- Rehabilitation Permit: The commissioner may issue a rehabilitation permit to a person or institution, to possess debilitated or orphaned wildlife for the purpose of restoring them to full health and release to the wild, or to be humanely euthanized. For more information, please contact Karen Estabrook at 207-287-5252.