Shipping Teeth and Calcified Tissue: International Requirements

Just like so many other things in life, sending wildlife teeth from outside the U.S. to our lab has gotten more complicated. We thought “modern progress” would make things simpler. Once upon a time we were able to receive mailed parcels at the lab and afterwards take care of regulatory clearance. Sadly, those days are gone.

The transportation procedure described below thoroughly addresses all regulatory requirements and has evolved after many months of trial and error. We regret the time and expense to our clients, but there are no other transportation options.  All the items listed in the instructions are important. If any are overlooked, delivery of the parcel can be delayed or blocked. We recommend FedEx Air Express because the labeling and documentation requirements have been thoroughly worked out with its help and we are in regular communications with FedEx personnel at locations where parcels first enter the U.S. If the instructions are followed exactly as given below, they should apply to UPS or other couriers as well in the event you lack access to FedEx Air Express.

For our part, at Matson’s Lab we will continue to employ the high standards of technical, analytical, and customer service for which we have gratefully received international recognition. We look forward to continuing the working partnerships we’ve so much enjoyed with our international clients for so many years.

PLEASE NOTE: Two new documents are required by the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (refer to no. 2, below). USDA APHIS is responsible for preventing disease from being introduced into the U.S. by imported animal parts. The agency can either confiscate shipments or allow their return to sender only after payment of fees that will exceed $500 when teeth specimens are not fully dried, and/or have more than a minimal amount of attached soft tissue, and/or have on them more than mere traces of dried blood.  Teeth that have been extracted and cleaned per recommendations of Matson’s Lab will be “clean” and allowable for import. See Tooth Extraction and Cleaning.

Use FedEx Air Express as the only transportation provider for teeth sent to Matson’s Lab for age analysis. Never use FedEx Ground (Canada). Ground has no procedure that will include the required U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Inspection. Please use no other carrier than FedEx Air Express. If you do not have FedEx Air Express service or if your FedEx office refuses service for a shipment of teeth for age analysis please contact us for advice.

The problem with International Mail: Shipping cartons containing teeth continue to be received at the Lab without having received U.S. Fish and Wildlife inspection, even though the parcel is clearly marked that inspection is required. FedEx Express will more efficiently deliver inspected, cleared parcels directly to our lab.

We greatly appreciate your efforts to send teeth to us in good condition and using correct shipping methods. We will do our part and return data of the highest possible accuracy.

A. How to use FedEx Express

1. Locate the FedEx Express office nearest you by calling 1-800-463-3339 (land line only, cellular phones don’t connect) or searching the internet:

CANADA French:
Other Countries:
1. Go to on the web
2. Select your country on the map
3. Enter into the search field “Customer Support”
4. Click on “Contact Us.”
5. This will give you your local phone number for FedEx. Request FedEx Express service.

2. Obtain correct documents for the shipment:

a. A cover letter to Matson’s Lab describing the sample.

b. A “Commercial Invoice” with a unique number assigned by you (for your records only), your contact information, Matson’s Lab contact information, and quantity and value of all the teeth in the sample: Download invoice (PDF). We recommend using a value of $0.01 per tooth; no item can have a value of $0.00. For example:

Common and scientific name
Unit price
Canine tooth from wolf (Canis lupus)
PM1 tooth from brown bear (Ursus arctos)

PLEASE EMAIL A COPY OF THE COMMERCIAL INVOICE TO MATSON’S UPON COMPLETION. We will use it for verification when we are contacted by USFWS during inspection.

c. Your country’s export permit (if required).

d. Matson’s Lab U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Import/Export Permit: Download Permit (PDF)

e. Certification that teeth are clean: Download Certification (PDF)

f. Matson’s Lab USDA import permit: Download Permit (Ungulates only)

g. The CITES permit document. Please give special attention to full and correct completion of the CITES permit document. See very important information about the permit.

h. Arrange with your FedEx Express office to have the CITES permit document validated by Customs before it leaves your country. If FedEx can’t provide CITES document Customs validation, you yourself will need to have it validated by Customs. Contact the nearest Customs office and make arrangements.

3. Place originals of all the documents inside the shipping carton.  Put these documents inside an envelope that is boldly marked: “DO NOT REMOVE THESE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS. THEY ARE REQUIRED FOR CLEARANCE UPON ENTRY TO THE U.S.”

4. Attach copies of all the documents to the outside of the shipping carton.

*  Copies of the validated CITES and USDA permits will need to be in a separate pouch taped shut with a note: “ORIGINAL CITES INSIDE PKG”

*   The Air Waybill and Commercial Invoice will need to be in the waybill pouch supplied by FedEx

5. Label the shipping carton.

a. If CITES species, label top of shipping carton: “ORIGINAL CITES PERMIT INSIDE”

b. 5 labels, on 4 sides and top: “HOLD FOR U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE INSPECTION”


6. Contact FedEx Express and arrange for the shipping carton to be picked up.

7. Complete the FedEx Express Air Waybill: It is most important to include all of this information on the Air Waybill. If any of it is omitted, it may result in the parcel not being inspected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

a. Add our email address and phone to the destination address:

Matson’s Laboratory
(406) 258-6286
Import Permit No. LE009816-0
135 Wooden Shoe Lane
Manhattan MT U.S.A.

b. In the lower left corner, record “CODE 05079000.” This is the tariff code for teeth.

c. Also in the lower left corner, write:  “CITES U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE INSPECTION REQUIRED.”  The way this parcel is handled upon import is determined largely on what’s in this Air Waybill information box. Please fill in this Air Waybill information box exactly as we request and include CITES as the first word even if the species is not CITES. Any other language can lead to a prolonged clearance process, seizure of the parcel, or return of the parcel to the sender.

8. Notify Matson’s Lab by e-mail when the shipment has been made: We will file the declaration that will enable the inspection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when the parcel enters this country.

a. Attach to your e-mail a copy of the CITES permit

b. Provide in your e-mail the FedEx Express tracking number

Other requirements for packaging teeth for shipment to our lab remain the same and are described below.

Matson’s charges our clients for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fee, which is either $108 (unprotected species) or $201 (protected species).

Pre-Shipment Checklist for Teeth and Calcified Tissue:

  • In your cover letter and invoice, indicate species and quantity of teeth for each one.
  • Use the species-specific standard tooth type or indicate substitutions.
  • Make the master inventory list using Microsoft Excel.
    • Group the species (for fisher canines, group genders separately), and bundle envelopes together to match the list.
    • List numbers in serial order.
    • Indicate date of kill or of extraction from live animals.
    • Indicate gender for black bears (and any species for which a gender-specific age summary will be done).
  • Electronic copies of Microsoft Excel master inventory list: Send as an e-mail attachment or enclose a CD inside the parcel.
  • Enclose all applicable permits, including any export permit required by your country and any required CITES permit.
  • Use correct package marking.
  • Use correct Matson’s Lab address information on the shipping label.

Description of Checklist Items:

Organize the specimens by species. Because of size and shape differences, teeth of each species are processed separately. Keep them separated by species as you organize the sample of teeth to be shipped.

Matson’s cementum aging models are species-specific. For example, white-tailed deer I1 and mule deer I1 are aged by different models because the teeth erupt at different ages in the two species.

Place dry teeth in small paper envelopes of approximately 8 x 14 cm (coin envelopes work well). Do not use preservative liquids, plastic bags, or vials. Put envelopes in serial order by identification number. Use rubber bands to bundle the envelopes together in groups of 10 or 20 so they will remain in serial order during transit.

Prepare an inventory list using Microsoft Excel. The serial order of the list should correspond exactly with the serial order of envelope packaging so technicians can use it to confirm specimen identification at the start of laboratory processing. Send the list as an e-mail attachment (preferred), or on a CD enclosed with the teeth.

The inventory list should also include species identification of the specimens and an indication of date of kill. Exact days should be recorded for dates between February 1 and August 31.

The unidentified non-standard tooth type may be incorrectly aged because the animal’s age at the time the non-standard permanent tooth erupts may differ from that of the standard permanent tooth. Technicians may not always recognize a non-standard tooth, so each should be plainly designated on both the tooth envelope and on the master inventory list.

Package specimens only in containers of the strongest cardboard. Pad the shipments with shipping “peanuts” or paper to help keep the envelope bundles intact.

ENDANGERED OR THREATENED SPECIES (ESA) PERMITS: Some species, for example the Woodland Caribou in Southeast B.C., are on the U.S. Endangered or Threatened list but may not be listed in CITES appendices. Special permits are required for these species; if you think that the species in your sample may be listed, please check with us before continuing with shipment preparations. We must obtain a special permit and this process may take as long as 90 days. The process must be started first by Matson’s Lab. Contact us so we can apply to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the permit.

CITES PERMITS. Please contact the lab prior to sending material from CITES species. Please study all the below information. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has begun a new and absolutely strict, no exceptions policy of requiring compliance with all the CITES Treaty export/import documentation terms. Any flaw in the CITES permit document, no matter how minor, may result in the shipment being seized by USFWS with the potential loss of all the specimens. In compliance with the International Convention for Threatened and Endangered Species (CITES), permits must accompany teeth sent to Matson’s Lab for processing. Permits are required for mammals listed in CITES Appendix I or Appendix II, either in the country of origin or in the US. In addition, permits are also required for mammals resembling threatened or endangered species (for example: the North American black bear).

WARNING: Actual quantities and species of teeth sent to Matson’s Lab MUST EITHER MATCH EXACTLY OR BE LESS THAN the quantities and species given in the accompanying CITES permits. If there is a greater quantity of teeth for any species or if there are teeth from a species not listed on the permit then the shipment may be seized by USFWS inspectors. Seized shipments may or may not be returned to the sender.

To inquire about the status of the species for which you have specimens, please contact Matson’s Lab. For CITES permits, contact your government’s wildlife management agency.

Important requirement by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for CITES species – Customs Validation at time of export:The USFWS requires Customs validation of the CITES permit at the time of export. Before the parcel can be legally exported to our lab in the U.S., a Customs official must add required information, then sign and stamp the box located at the lower portion of the permit document. Please follow only the steps given below in carefully checking the CITES permit document and shipping the parcel. Please follow no other procedure.

1. Check the CITES permit document. Confirm that the information is complete and correct. Following is a list of the deficiencies that have caused the permit to be rejected at the time of import. When a permit is rejected, the parcel may be seized by the USFWS and may or may not be returned to the sender. Causes of rejected permits include:

a. CITES permit “valid until” date has expired. The date given at the time the permit has obtained was not far enough in the future to allow for the delay in handling and transportation. Make sure to allow at least 4 months for these delays, so the permit will be valid at the time we receive the parcel.

b. The quantity of teeth is greater than the quantity given on the CITES permit. The quantity shipped may be less than the quantity given on the permit but may not be greater.

c. The Customs Validation is missing, or is incomplete. All information specified in the Validation Block must be supplied. This will include: The actual quantity of specimens exported or re-exported: (i) Using the same units of measurement as those on the CITES document; (ii) Validated or certified by the stamp or seal and signature of the inspecting authority at the time of export or re-export. Following below is an example of a Customs authorization that is invalid, even though most information is provided, and it is stamped and signed by the Customs officer. The validation is rejected because the Officer failed to record the quantity shipped:


2. To obtain CITES permit document Customs validation for FedEx shipments it may be necessary to hand carry the parcel to a Customs office for validation before shipping. The parcel can be shipped only after validation has been obtained. Your FedEx office will advise whether they can obtain the Customs validation or if you will need to obtain it. If you are going to obtain the validation yourself, you may want to contact the Customs office in advance and confirm that officials are familiar with the handling of the CITES document and how to provide validation.

WARNING: OUTFITTERS, TAXIDERMISTS, HUNTERS: Matson’s Laboratory is no longer able to process teeth received from private individuals outside the U.S. Any teeth we receive must be discarded.