COMMERCE CITY – In Commerce City, you can find the National Wildlife Property Repository, a warehouse filled to the brim with wildlife contraband.
That means rows and heaps and stacks of mounted animals and wildlife products that have been forfeited or abandoned to U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents and inspectors for violations of federal law. Eventually, those items will cycle out to the community as part of an effort to teach people about wildlife and the dangers of illegally harvesting wildlife.
The building, a 22,000 square foot complex placed on the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, houses 1.3 million different artifacts.
Elephants, rhinos, whales, tigers, bears, dolphins, sea turtles and other species are all represented in the rather macabre (but fascinating) assembly.
It’s far from being the one and only place wildlife artifacts are housed, the repository only holds a small slice of the wildlife contraband that is seized in the country.
“Everyday is different, and you never know what is going to come in next,” stated Sarah Metzer, education specialist for the facility.
The collection has been growing for decades, taking in forfeited items once the courts or US ports of entry are done with them.
“And when we see them collected like this, it really gives us that perspective of the volume of these types of things coming in,” Metzer continued.
So the remains are collected with the intent of repurposing them for scientific, law enforcement, or educational needs. Each year the facility takes in items and sends out thousands of artifacts to schools, libraries, and universities.
“We really want these items that are seized and confiscated to be repurposed to help educate people about the species,” finished Metzer.
If the Repository has piqued your interest, you can learn and see more about their programs and mission on their website. You’ll also find details on how your group can take part in a tour of the facility for free. Tours only happen once a month, require reservations and are not open to children under 12-years-old.
“The facility is responsible for receiving wildlife items that have been forfeited or abandoned to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In accordance with the law, these items are stored in a secure environment, and many of the items are donated to educational facilities, nonprofit organizations, and conservation agencies to aid in teaching about endangered species and other wildlife. Others items are sent to scientific institutions to be used in research to develop better identification methods to protect wildlife.”