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Wildlife Guidelines

NOTE: Also see Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Safety Bulletin #31, “Safety Awareness When Working Around Indigenous ‘Critters.’” When working with wildlife (such as raccoons, chipmunks, deer, etc.) supplied by an animal handler, wildlife rehabilitator or other party, refer to the Exotic/Captive Wildlife Guidelines in this chapter.

Wildlife Natural to Filming Location

8-280 It is production’s responsibility to ensure the safety of native animals in the filming area, and to consult the agency or people responsible for the removal of wildlife from location sets. 

a. Any such animals that remain on the set are subject to American Humane’s Guidelines. 

b. If native animals are not to remain on the set, they must be carefully removed, relocated, properly housed and cared for, and then safely returned to their habitat after filming. 

8-280.1 When filming in a location where wildlife may appear naturally, film crews shall not interfere with such wildlife in any way and may not film such wildlife without the involvement of American Humane. 

8-281* Wildlife must not be manipulated for filming purposes. Wildlife in most instances are protected by state and federal laws. Animals may be filmed documentary-style in their natural habitat, but should not be frightened, corralled, chased or otherwise manipulated for the sake of filming. 

8-281.1* Never touch or handle wildlife! Wild animals are not trained animal actors and are not familiar with humans. Wild animals are known to carry diseases that can affect other animals as well as humans. 

8-282* Should the need arise to remove a wild animal from a location for human safety and/or animal welfare, production shall contact the appropriate state wildlife department for professional assistance. An animal handler knowledgeable about the species of animal and familiar with proper removal and relocation techniques shall be used. In certain situations, USDA, federal and state wildlife regulations shall also apply. 

8-283 In most areas, it is illegal to kill, capture, take, possess or permanently release wildlife without prior approval or a permit from the appropriate state agency. The removal, handling or taking of animal parts, such as bones, antlers, feathers, eggs or nests, is also illegal. 

8-284 Production may not intentionally harm — and must take precautionary measures to protect — nests, dens, caves, caverns and other living spaces of animals. 

8-285 Recreational fishing while on location is not allowed. American Humane’s jurisdiction applies to the area being filmed, including wildlife found on set or location. Hunting or trapping in the set location is also prohibited.

Release of Wildlife

8-286* The permanent release of non-indigenous animals is prohibited and strictly enforced by federal and state laws. 

8-287* Certain animals deemed “invasive” by law shall not be permanently released. 

8-288* PRIOR APPROVAL from American Humane for the permanent  release of indigenous animals is required. 

a. Production and/or the animal handler must provide, in advance, proof of a proper “release” permit or written permission approving the permanent release of indigenous animals granted by the appropriate federal, state and/or local agencies. This permit or written permission must include the type and number of animals being released and approval of the location of the release. 

b. In order to survive permanent release, animals must become independent and wary of people. A number of factors should be considered when selecting a location for releasing animals, including: Does the selected area provide adequate food and shelter? Is both vehicle and human traffic sparse? Are hunting and trapping permitted? 

c. Once the appropriate permits are obtained and American Humane has approved an animal for permanent release, the cage containing the animal should be kept outside in a protected area during the day, and the location should be changed daily. An animal being permanently released should have at least one week of outside exposure prior to release. 

8-289 American Humane recommends that productions be proactive when choosing times or seasons in which to film animals and/or to release wildlife.  

a. No wildlife shall be permanently released in inclement weather.

b. Air temperature, heavy cloud cover, wind, rain, snow, etc., all play a role when an animal is first released into the wild, affecting its chances of survival. 

8-290 Care must be taken to ensure that non-indigenous animals are removed from the area after production. 

* Notes a federal, state or local animal welfare statue, code or permit consideration.