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Captive wildlife regulations and licenses

Wisconsin law regulates the possession of and activities involving captive wildlife. Activities that are regulated include but are not limited to taking, transporting, selling, purchasing, introducing, stocking, releasing, hunting, exhibiting, propagating and rehabilitating captive wild animals.

Chapter 169, Wisconsin Statutes created the types of captive wildlife licenses referred to below. Additional authorizations, standards, limitations and requirements related to possession of and activities involving captive wildlife are established in the Administrative Code of the Department of Natural Resources including but not limited to Administrative Code s. NR 16[PDF, exit DNR]; Administrative Code s. NR 17[PDF, exit DNR]; and Administrative Code s. NR 19[PDF, exit DNR]. Refer to these statutes and codes for more details.

All captive wildlife licenses are subject to:

  • Animal Import Permit [exit DNR]. To import any animal into Wisconsin from another state, province or country, an Animal Import Permit from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is required. This permit must be obtained prior to an animal entering Wisconsin.
  • Captive Wildlife Pen Specifications and Transportation Standards [PDF]
  • Application, record-keeping, and reporting requirements. Links to information and corresponding forms are included under each captive wildlife license below.

Other restrictions

Additional permits may be required by other DNR programs, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) or others depending on the nature of the activity and the species involved. Contact these agencies for regulations and additional information before obtaining any wild animal.

Captive Wild Animal Farm License

Nonprofit Educational Exhibit License 

  • Nonprofit Education Exhibit License application [PDF]
  • Amphibian and reptile regulations [PDF]
  • Record-keeping and reporting forms: 
    • Quarterly Report Form [PDF]. License holders must submit quarterly reports of all transactions or activity involving coyote, fox, wolf, bear, badger, mink, otter, skunk, fisher, marten, wolverine, bobcat, cougar, lynx, mute swan and wolf-dog hybrid. See the regulations for more information.
    • Annual Report Form [PDF] All license holders must submit this report at the end of each license year.

Nonresident Temporary Exhibiting License 

Wild Fur Farm License

Bird Hunting Preserve License

Deer Farm Fence Inspection Certificate (for farm-raised deer)

No person may keep farm-raised white-tailed deer unless all of the farm-raised deer are contained in a fenced area for which the person holds a valid Deer Farm Fence Inspection Certificate issued by the department. This certificate is only required to possess white-tailed deer. All farm-raised deer keepers are required to be licensed and registered by the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection[exit DNR].

Dog Training Licenses and Dog Trailing Licenses

A Dog Training License authorizes the licensee to purchase, possess and use certain captive-bred wild animals for dog training purposes only. Types of dog training licenses include Bird dog training, Hound dog training and Dog club training licenses and Hound dog training enclosure permit. A Dog Trialing License authorizes the licensee and participants to engage in an organized, competitive field event that involves sporting dog breeds. Trialing-related licenses include Bird dog trial license, Hound dog trial license and Hound dog training enclosure permit.  

  • For information, application forms, and record and reporting requirements for dog training licenses, dog trialing licenses, and hound dog training enclosure permits; go to the department’s Dog training and trialing webpage.

Rehabilitation License

Scientific Research License

Frequently Asked Questions

What is required to obtain a captive skunk?

  1. A Captive Wild Animal Farm license must be issued prior to obtaining a skunk.
  2. The skunk must come from a lawful source.
  3. Captive Wild Animal Farm license regulations [PDF].
  4. Per 169. Captive skunk must be kept in a pen (see pen specifications).
  5. If the legal source is not in Wisconsin, an Animal Import Permit must be obtained prior to the animal entering Wisconsin.
  6. Verify with your local government, county ordinance and municipal law to make sure to with regard to Skunk possession first.  

Under what circumstances can a wild animal be taken live from the wild?

Taking live any wild animal from the wild is prohibited except as specifically authorized under:

  • bird hunting preserve license, 
  • wild fur farm license, 
  • rehabilitation license, 
  • scientific research license
  • falconry permit
  • a veterinarian, for the purpose of providing medical treatment (not rehabilitation) to wild animals

See Keep Wildlife Wild for what you can do to help sick, injured or orphaned wildlife.

I am looking to raise Ring-necked Pheasants (Phasianus colchicus), do I need a DNR permit?

  • The purchasing, selling, breeding/propagation, exhibiting, and possession of captive ring-necked pheasants is allowed without a license or permit from DNR except for the following:  
    • For the purpose of dog training or dog trialing: an appropriate Dog Training License or Dog Trialing License is required to possess and use captive ring-necked pheasants.
    • Commercial shoots: may only take place as authorized by a Bird Hunting Preserve License (NR 17.01(1)).
  • Captive ring-necked pheasants may be released on private lands (with landowner permission) without a stocking permit from the department provided that the requirements of 169.06 (1) (d), Stats., are met.

Other restrictions

Local ordinances may apply and permits from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or Wisconsin DATCP may be required. Contact these agencies for regulations and additional information before obtaining any wild animal.