Everything You Need to Know About Shipping Skulls

Specializing in quality dermestid beetles

Feline skull in the foreground, in the background out of focus dog skull

At Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy, you can ship skulls to us to be cleaned. Shipping skulls for taxidermy purposes is legal, but there are various requirements that taxidermists and hunters must be aware of. Skulls can be shipped internationally as well, but they may be intercepted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

In July 2020, the CBP intercepted over 100 pounds of prohibited items at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport. These included a canine skull and sheep skull and other bones, as well as skins, shells, and possibly a type of soap derived from animal ingredients. Originating from Nigeria, the box was labeled as clothing, but many of the items were destroyed by the CBP or seized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Each year, the CBP intercepts thousands of materials that could potentially introduce harmful materials, pests, and diseases into local agriculture.1 Wildlife departments also check the contents of shipped packages for signs of disease, and they will seize any materials suspected to be infected or contaminated. It’s therefore important to follow various rules before shipping skulls to us directly.

Rules and Tips on Shipping Skulls

Per federal law, a package containing skulls must be labeled accordingly. The box should clearly state it contains wildlife parts (placing a “Taxidermy Items” label on the package is sufficient). The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) also charges a permit fee to ship wildlife products. It doesn’t matter even if you’re shipping a single skull. To find out the latest requirements, visit the FWS website or contact the agency directly.

There are also guidelines to follow on preparing your trophy for skull cleaning. Dermestid beetles will consume the hide, eyes, tongue, and even muscle and brain tissue. To make shipping and processing easier, remove these, being careful not to damage the bone structure. Your taxidermist can explain how to do this if you aren’t sure. Otherwise, the provider may charge a fee for skull prep.

Other steps to take before shipping a skull include:

  • Freeze the skull before packing and shipping, so it is better preserved.
  • Wrap the skull in several layers of plastic with tape, so it is airtight and does not leak.
  • To absorb excess moisture, consider wrapping the head in newspaper first.
  • Make sure the parcel weighs less than 70 pounds, as heavier items can be damaged during shipping.
  • Ship your specimen in a hard-sided cooler, Styrofoam cooler, or any sturdy box. Use enough packing material to secure the item.
  • Cedar wood chips can be used as filler to absorb excess moisture and prevent odors from escaping.
  • Notify the taxidermist before shipping, so they can confirm it’s prepared correctly and the proper documentation is included.
  • Include a packing list (in plastic taped to the outside of the box) with your shipment to ensure nothing is overlooked or accidentally discarded.

The Cost of Shipping Skulls

It’s important to speak with your taxidermist and do research on any fees that may apply. Shipping charges are determined by calculating prices based on the size and weight of the package. Your location and the location to which it’s being shipped are also factors. Costs also vary depending on the carrier, whether it’s USPS, UPS, Federal Express, or another shipper. In addition, you may also choose to purchase insurance, while other taxes and fees may apply.

Please see our latest prices at Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy for degreasing, cleaning, and whitening elk and deer/bear skulls.

Restrictions on Wildlife Product Shipping

If you’re shipping a skull from an international location, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) has additional restrictions you should be aware of. It’s usually prohibited to ship primates, wild cats, bears, or otters. Reptiles including crocodilians, tortoises, and some snakes and lizards cannot be shipped, while corals, certain seashells, and some sharks are prohibited. Exotic wild birds and birdwing butterflies can’t be shipped either.

How Are Skulls Returned?

We allow our dermestid beetles to fully clean your trophy skull before shipping it back to you, free of beetles or larvae. This allows for high-quality taxidermy for hunters, artists, museums, education, and other purposes. When shipping skulls, we ship via priority mail or your choice of shipping method. You’ll receive notification that your order is being shipped, along with a confirmation number.

Our process consistently yields high-quality results. All bone features are preserved, as no abrasive or otherwise damaging tools are used. Other less ideal methods, such as boiling or composting, are avoided as well (delicate nasal bones and other structures therefore remain intact). This results in a museum-quality skull similar to specimens used for museum displays, hands-on exhibits, and classroom teaching aids.

Contact Us Today

Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy allows you to purchase dermestid beetles, which we ship to you for your own taxidermy purposes, or we can clean skulls for you. We use the same methods for preparing professional-quality skulls as are used by museums and universities. Visit our skull cleaning page to learn more about what we do and how to ship skulls to us. For more information, contact us by filling out our online form or calling 907-942-2847.


  1. https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/cbp-intercepts-animal-skulls-bones-skins