USDA National Wildlife Research Center Symposia


Date of this Version

August 2007


Published in: Witmer, G. W., W. C. Pitt, and K. A. Fagerstone, editors. 2007. Managing vertebrate invasive species: proceedings of an international symposium. USDA/APHIS Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. Also available online at


This paper provides a synopsis of the Defenders of Wildlife report entitled Broken Screens: The Regulation of Live Animal Imports in the United States, released in August 2007. That report assessed the complex federal system for regulating live wild animal imports as applied to the 2,241 non-native species that were identified in United States Fish and Wildlife Service records as being imported between 2000 and 2004, inclusive. The report describes the “coarse risk screening” conducted for those species by searching the scientific literature and United States and international databases. If one or more reliable sources indicated a species was known or predicted to be invasive, pose a disease risk, or otherwise be harmful, in the United States or elsewhere, the species was labeled “potentially risky.” Due to the hundreds of potentially risky species being imported with no-risk screening by federal officials, the report concludes the United States’ regulatory system provides a low level of protection to the nation. Absent major policy reforms, some of the potentially risky, imported animals will escape or be released and form invasive wild populations or cause disease outbreaks. Eleven policy recommendations are offered to reduce these risks to more tolerable levels.