The MWFB houses nearly 14,000 specimens of mammals with a primary emphasis in California and Western North America. We house approximately 13,000 study skins and 1,000 osteological specimens and no type specimens from 88 mammalian families. In addition to internal expansion, our mammal collection benefited from the acquisition of three orphaned collections; the UC Davis Zoology Collection, University of California, Irvine Museum of Systematic Biology holdings, and mammals from Northern Illinois University. As a result of these acquisitions, we have specimens that date back to the late 1800's, but our museum is particularly noted for 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 3,000 mammal tissue samples, primarily from California, Chile and SE Asia.
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, and their students, 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 former faculty Robert L. Rudd, E. W. (Bill) Jameson, Jr., Tracy 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 California and developing collections from other parts of the United States, in particular the desert southwest.
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 collected mammals from the Maya Mountains. The second, Kelt initiated a modern surveys of small mammals in central and southern Chile. Added to Kelt's inventory, nearly 900 specimens of Chilean mammals were obtained by the MWFB from the collection of Dr. Peter Meserve, Northern Illinois University. Combined our modern holdings of Chilean mammals is now among the best in the United States. Finally Researcher Alan Hitch and collections manager Irene Engilis amassed large collections of bats and rodents from Indonesia and Cambodia, with expanded efforts coming in 2021 in Laos. Dr Tim Caro deposited a known age collection of Cheetah skulls to the museum in 2018. These from a lifetime research on this species in Tanzania.
In 2006, the MWFB received a donation of nearly 800 bat specimens from Malaysia, collected by Dr. Albert Beck in the 1960's. Dr. Beck was a pioneer in bat ectoparasites and his collection 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. Our Cambodia bat collection is the most comprehensive in any museum with over 1,000 specimens collected during a country-wide survey from 2016 to present. In 2016, we participated on a vertebrate collecting expedition to New Britain, Papua New Guinea, adding more bats to our holdings, including several endemic forms.