Shipping Teeth and Calcified Tissue: International Requirements

Shipping cartons containing teeth continue to be received at the Lab without receiving U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) inspection, even though the parcel is clearly marked that inspection is required. We recommend FedEx Air Express as the only transportation provider for teeth sent to Matson’s, as they will more efficiently deliver inspected, cleared parcels directly to our lab.

Use no other carrier than FedEx Air Express, and never use FedEx Ground (Canada). Ground has no procedure that will include the required USFWS inspection. If you do not have FedEx Air Express service or if your FedEx office refuses service, please contact us for advice. 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.

Please note: Matson’s charges our clients for the USFWS fee, which is either $108 (unprotected species) or $201 (protected species).

Extracting & Cleaning Teeth

Packages containing specimens that are not fully dried, have more than a minimal amount of soft tissue attached, and/or have more than traces of dried blood may not be allowed into the country. Teeth that have been extracted and cleaned per recommendations of Matson’s Lab will be “clean” and allowable for import. For information about extracting teeth from an animal, click here.

To clean teeth, soak them in a hot water bath at 60-80°C for 4-6 hours. Use the lower limits of temperature and time for smaller specimens. After the hot water treatment, wipe remaining tissue and dirt off the tooth with a piece of nylon net fabric. Do not clean the tooth with a sharp instrument or rotary tool, as this can severely damage the cementum.

How to Use FedEx Express

Call 1-800-463-3339 or visit the FedEx website.

1) Cover letter to Matson’s Lab describing the sample.

2) 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. We recommend using a value of $0.01 per tooth; no item can have a value of $0.00. For example:

Common and Scientific NameQuantityUnit PriceAmount
Canine tooth from wolf (Canis lupus)250.010.25
PM1 tooth from brown bear (Ursus arctos)150.010.15

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

4) Matson’s Lab U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Import/Export Permit.

5) Certification that teeth are clean.

6) Matson’s Lab USDA Import Permit (ungulates only).

7) The CITES permit document (if applicable). 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 validation, you will have to contact the nearest Customs office to make arrangements. Please give special attention to full and correct completion of the CITES permit – click here for more information about this document.

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.

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

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

1) If CITES species are enclosed, label the top of the shipping carton “ORIGINAL CITES PERMIT INSIDE”

2) Five labels, on four sides and the top: “HOLD FOR U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE INSPECTION”


It is very 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 USFWS. The way the parcel is handled upon import is largely determined by what’s in the Air Waybill information box. Please fill it in 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.

1) Add our e-mail address and phone number:

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

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

3) Also in the lower left corner, write “CITES U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE INSPECTION REQUIRED.”

In your email, attach a copy of the commercial invoice, CITES permit (if applicable), and master list of samples, and provide the FedEx Express tracking number. We will file the declaration that will enable the inspection by USFWS when the parcel enters this country.

Mail to:

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

Endangered or Threatened Species (ESA) Permits

Some species (e.g. the Woodland Caribou in Southeast B.C.) are on the U.S. Endangered or Threatened list but may not be listed in CITES appendices. If you think that the species in your sample may be listed, check with us before continuing shipment preparations. We must obtain a special permit for this, which may take as long as 90 days. Please contact us so we can apply to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the permit.

CITES Permits

In compliance with the International Convention for Threatened and Endangered Species (CITES), permits must accompany teeth sent to Matson’s Lab for processing. Please contact the lab prior to sending material from CITES species and study all the information below. 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 specimens. 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 (e.g. the North American black bear).

WARNING: Actual quantities and species of teeth sent to Matson’s Lab MUST EITHER MATCH 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, the shipment can 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 us. For CITES permits, contact your government’s wildlife management agency.

CITES Permit Customs Validation

The USFWS requires Customs validation of the CITES permit at the time of export. Before the parcel can be legally exported to our lab, a Customs official must add required information, then sign and stamp the box located at the lower portion of the permit document. Please follow the steps given below to carefully check the CITES permit document and ship the parcel.

1) Check the CITES permit document and confirm that the information is complete and correct. When a permit is rejected, the parcel can be seized by the USFWS and may or may not be returned to the sender. Causes of rejected permits include:

  • Permit “valid until” date has expired. The date given at the time the permit was 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 for these delays, so the permit will be valid at the time we receive the parcel.
  • 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.
  • The Customs validation is missing or incomplete. All information specified in the Validation Block must be supplied. This includes the actual quantity of specimens using the same units of measurement as those on the CITES document and validated by the stamp and signature of the inspecting authority at the time of export or re-export.

2) To obtain CITES permit 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 only be shipped after it has been validated. Your FedEx office will advise whether they can obtain the Customs validation, or if you will need to obtain it yourself. If the latter, you may want to contact the Customs office in advance and confirm that officials are familiar with the CITES document and know how to provide validation.

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. It was rejected because the Officer failed to record the quantity shipped.
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