LRP - Licenses

LRP - Regulations

LRP - Permits

Recreation - Statewide

Recreation - Trapping

Recreation - Fishing

Recreation - Hunting

Env. Protection - Management

Env. Protection - Emergency

Env. Protection - Resources

To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your contact information below.

Prairie white-fringed orchid

Prairie white-fringed orchid

Donate today
and support the community of caretakers.
about rare plants, animals, and natural communities.
a plant or non-game animal. [exit DNR]
Contact information
For information, please contact:
Program specialist
Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation

Wisconsin's endangered and threatened species laws

In 1972, Wisconsin passed its own endangered species law. Under the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the state created rules and regulations and identified which species to protect. Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973 with a purpose "to conserve the ecosystem upon which endangered and threatened species depend". The law incorporates the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 and Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969.

State laws

Below is a summary of the Wisconsin State Statute 29.604 and Administrative Rule Chapter NR 27 that establish, define and guide Wisconsin's endangered and threatened species laws. Chapter NR 29, Wis. Admin. Code, establishes and defines the endangered resources information fees related to providing rare species data to the public.

Permits - No one is exempt from these laws, but an endangered or threatened species permit can allow you to conduct certain activities under specified conditions. The Department of Natural Resources may issue permits under specified terms and conditions to take, transport, possess or export listed endangered or threatened species for educational, zoological, scientific or preservation purposes. Permitted species and records relating to them are subject to inspection at any time. Permit holders are also required to submit annual reports and therefore should keep accurate records of any actions pertaining to the endangered or threatened species the permit holder possesses. Accurate up-to-date records are to be maintained at all times in the events of an inspection and for the annual report.

Violations - Any person in violation of any of the laws presented above are subject to fines and/or imprisonment. For reference, see the Wisconsin Endangered and Threatened Species List [PDF].

Endangered and threatened animals: If the state law is violated unintentionally, the violator is subject to a fine of no less than $500 and no more than $2,000 and the court shall revoke all hunting privileges for one year. If the law is violated intentionally a person may be fined no less than $2,000 and no more than $5,000 or may be imprisoned for nine months, or both. The court shall revoke all hunting privileges for three years. Violations of federal laws [exit DNR] will result in greater penalties.

Endangered and threatened plants: If the state law is violated unintentionally, the person is subject to a fine of $1,000 or less. If the law is violated intentionally, the person is subject to a fine of $1,000 or less and/or nine months imprisonment.

Incidental Take - Wisconsin Law prohibits the taking of any animal listed as endangered or threatened, regardless of where it occurs. For plants, taking is prohibited only on public property. However, even on public lands taking of listed plants is not prohibited if it occurs in the course of forestry, agriculture or utility practices (State Statute 29.604 [exit DNR]). See the Incidental Take pages for more information.

The Department of Natural Resources is required by law to implement conservation programs on state listed species. This involves conducting research and developing programs directed at conserving, protecting, managing for and restoring certain endangered and threatened species to the extent practical.


It is illegal to take, transport, possess, process or sell any wild animal that is included on the Wisconsin Endangered and Threatened Species List [PDF]without a valid endangered or threatened species permit.

Nongame birds As mentioned earlier, all birds, with the exception of resident game birds and certain non-native species are protected from intentional taking, killing or possession. This includes their nests, eggs and body parts.

Reptiles and amphibians - All native herptiles are considered protected but have different levels of protections. Open season for taking frogs is from the Saturday nearest May 1st to December 31st. There is no open season for bullfrogs in Jefferson County. Open season for all turtles, other then those listed as endangered or threatened, is July 16 - November 30. Collection of protected wild animals - black ratsnake, bullsnake, timber rattlesnake and blue racer - or those listed as threatened or endangered, is prohibited in Wisconsin. Otherwise, non-listed reptiles and amphibians may be taken at anytime. See Wisconsin's Amphibian & Reptile Regulations for details.

Mussels - It is illegal to remove threatened or endangered clams - live or dead - from any Wisconsin water. In addition, it is no longer legal to harvest live clams from any state waters. See the Wisconsin clamming regulations for details.

Nongame fish - Up to 600 minnows may be taken and possessed without a fishing license or bait dealers license.

Mammals - Generally, all species of wild mammals not listed as endangered or threatened and which are not hunted or trapped are considered unprotected, and may be taken. This primarily includes members of the weasel and rodent families. A few nongame species, including badgers and woodchucks, are protected and can only be taken with a permit. Species found only rarely or accidentally in the state, such as cougar and moose, may not be taken or killed.


No one may process or sell any wild plant that is a listed species without a valid endangered or threatened species permit. On public lands or lands you do not own, lease or have the permission of the landowner, you may not cut, root up, sever, injure, destroy, remove, transport or carry away a listed plant without an endangered or threatened species permit. There is an exemption on public lands for forestry, agriculture and utility activity.

Native plants - The old wildflower law that protected plants such as orchids, trillium and bittersweet was taken off the books in 1978. Except for wild ginseng, wild rice and endangered or threatened species, all other plants are unprotected on private lands and may be taken, transported or sold - with the exception of noxious weeds and nuisance weeds. On state property, you cannot take any plants or plant parts except for edible fruits [PDF, exit DNR], edible nuts, wild mushrooms, wild asparagus, and watercress. These may be removed by hand without a permit for the purpose of personal consumption by the collector.

Wild ginseng - The harvest of wild ginseng requires a license if it is harvested on land you do not own, or if it is sold. Ginseng may not be harvested from DNR lands, national forests or parks. The harvest season runs from September 1 to November 1.

Wild rice - The harvest of wild rice may occur only on specific waters during specific open rice seasons. A rice permit is required, as is the use of traditional ricing techniques, using canoes and beating poles. See Wild Rice Harvest in Wisconsin for details.

Back to Top

Federal laws

Endangered Species Act
The Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) [exit DNR] protects all federally listed animals from direct killing, taking, or other activities that may be detrimental to the species. Federally listed plants have similar protection, but the direct killing or taking prohibitions are limited to federal lands. Federal Protection for plants also covers intentional taking on any lands if done in violation of state law or criminal trespass laws.

Under the ESA, all federal agencies and cooperating states shall seek to conserve and recover federally listed species [exit DNR]. All federal agencies must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) [exit DNR] if any federal project could result in a direct or incidental take of any federally listed species. Any state projects that could affect a federally listed species and that are funded in whole or in part by federal funds also requires consultation with the FWS prior to any project activity. In order to take, transport, possess, process or sell any federally-listed species, you must first obtain an endangered species permit from the FWS. The Federal ESA also limits interstate and international commerce of all species. Permits may be applied for by contacting:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [exit DNR]
Endangered Species Division
Fort Snelling, MN   55222

Federal Lacey Act
The Federal Lacey Act [exit DNR] states that it is a federal violation to import, export, sell receive, acquire, purchase or conduct interstate transport of any fish, wildlife or plant taken or possessed in violation of federal, tribal, state or foreign law. Therefore it is illegal to transport federal [exit DNR] or state listed [PDF] endangered or threatened species obtained in Wisconsin out of the state without a valid permit.

This law also applies to species what are not listed but are protected by other laws, such as ginseng and migratory birds. You may bring into Wisconsin non-living specimens of Wisconsin endangered and threatened species without a permit, if they are legally obtained from their place of origin. In this case they must have a tag attached and documentation stating the place of origin.

Federal Migratory Bird Act
The Federal Migratory Bird Act [exit DNR] states that most birds and their parts - feathers, eggs, nests, etc.- are protected by federal law from being killed, taken, transports, possessed, bought, sold, imported or exported without a valid federal permit. This includes a majority of the birds species found in Wisconsin, with the exception of resident games birds - such as pheasant, quail, grouse, etc.- and feral species such as the English sparrow, starling and pigeon. The hunting of migratory game birds is subject to state law and may be done only during the official hunting season and by licensed individuals.

Eagle Protection Act
The Eagle Protection Act [exit DNR] prohibits the taking, possession, sale, purchase or barter, transport, export or import of any bald eagle or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part of the bird - such as feathers - and the nest or eggs, unless specifically allowed by an endangered or threatened species permit.

Back to Top

Last revised: Wednesday January 29 2020