Skip directly to: Navigation for this section | Main page content
yellow-billed magpie graphic

Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology / Mammals

   Education and Conservation through Preservation
bear skulls

Skulls of bears (genus Ursus) in the MWFB collection.

Mammal Collection

The mammal collection is a rapidly expanding element of the MWFB. The museum houses nearly 10,000 specimens with a primary emphasis in California and Western North America representing 100 families.  We house approximately 9,000 study skins and 1,000 osteological specimens and no holotypes.  In addition to internal expansion, our mammal collection benefited from the acquisition of two orphaned collections; the UC Davis Zoology Collection and the University of California, Irvine Museum of Systematic Biology holdings. As a result of these acquisitions, our collections date back to the early 1900's with particular emphasis on modern material dating from 1972 to present.  We are growing at a rate of 300 specimens per year. In 2005 the MWFB instituted frozen tissue archives for cryo-storage in an ultracold freezer.  Since then we have amassed approximately 300 mammal tissue samples, primarily from California.

The initial development of the mammal collection was primarily the result of the activities of Ronald E. Cole, Curator Emeritus and students of former UC Davis mammalogist Robert Schwab.  Since 1972, these individuals developed a nearly complete collection of mammals from California, the backbone of our mammal holdings.  In the mid-1990's, when the UC Davis Zoology collection was merged with the MWFB, a significant addition of materials taken in California from 1920 to 1960 was added. Chief among contributors were Robert L. Rudd, E. W. (Bill) Jameson, Jr., Robert Storer, and their students.  The majority of these historic efforts focused on riverine systems of the Central Valley and its watershed, which, due to hydro-projects, no longer exist.   The MWFB mammal collection was the foundation for the development of the field guide, Mammals of California written by E. W. Jameson, Jr. (1988; Univ. of California Press) and its revision by E. W. Jameson, Jr. and H. J. Peters (2004 Univ. of California Press).

Recent collecting activities by faculty Douglas A. Kelt and curator Andrew Engilis Jr., and their students, have greatly expanded the small mammal holdings of the MWFB by filling-in geographic gaps in coverage in California and developing collections from New Mexico and southern Texas. 

Our international holdings bear mentioning here.  The MWFB has participated and led expeditions to several regions.  The first was a trip in 1985 when the MWFB joined the Bishop Museum in surveys of Papua New Guinea.  MWFB houses synoptic materials from this effort.  In the 2000's the MWFB participated on three mammal inventories abroad. The first was to Belize, where Engilis and Tim Caro, faculty, collected mammals from the Maya Mountains, the second was a collection of small mammals made in the Katavi Region of Southwestern Tanzania again led by Caro (specimens at the British Museum), and finally in 2005, Kelt and Engilis initiated modern surveys of small mammals in central and southern Chile.

In 2006, the MWFB received a donation of nearly 400 bat specimens from Malaysia, collected by Dr. Albert Beck in the 1960's. This supplements an earlier gift from Dr. Beck of nearly 150 bats from this same collection.  Dr. Beck was a pioneer in bat ectoparasites and his collection of about 800 specimens from Malaysia is among the most comprehensive from that region of the world. He dispersed his collection to about ten museums worldwide but the MWFB is now home to the bulk of the material forming the core of his work including all of his catalogs, field journals, publications, and other supporting documentation of his research. His contribution has helped to solidify our collection’s holdings from Malaysia through Indonesia and including New Guinea and Taiwan.

To query the bird collection electronic database click here or go to: