Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

How to Report a Disturbance to a Burial Site

Report a Disturbance to a Human Burial Site | Wisconsin Historical Society

If you know of a human burial site that is being disturbed or was recently disturbed:

  1. Contact your local police or sheriff's department immediately.
  2. Notify the Wisconsin Historical Society at 800-342-7834 or 608-264-6507 as soon as possible so that the Society can coordinate with law enforcement to investigate the disturbance. You may remain anonymous.
  3. If human remains or suspected human remains have been exposed, do not move or handle the remains or any other objects in the area that has been disturbed.

When to Report a Disturbance

You should report a disturbance if:

  • People are digging within the boundaries of a burial site without authorization from the Wisconsin Historical Society.
  • Human remains or suspected human remains have been exposed.
  • Tombstones are being removed from a burial site.
  • Native American mounds are being damaged.

Activities Allowed Within Boundaries of a Burial Site

Before you call the Society or your local police, please be aware that some activities are allowed within the boundaries of burial sites:

  • Farmers are allowed to plant crops and trees within the boundaries of burial sites if they do not change the surface characteristics of the burial site. This means that if a burial site has been plowed or planted in the past, it may be plowed or planted in the future. Farmers are not allowed to damage Native American mounds, remove tombstones or other grave markers, or remove boundary fences.
  • Landowners and volunteers may cut trees and clear brush from burial sites as long as they do not damage or move grave markers, mounds, or fences.
  • The owners of burial sites are allowed to conduct normal cemetery business such as the excavation of new graves, landscaping, and the replacement of older or damaged burial markers. The owners of burial sites are not allowed to damage older graves or Native American mounds while maintaining and operating their cemetery.

Vandalized Cemeteries

If you notice that tombstones in a marked cemetery have been knocked over or vandalized, but see that no digging or other ground disturbance has taken place, you do not need to contact the Wisconsin Historical Society. Instead, notify your local police or sheriff's department as soon as possible.

Learn More

See more articles about Human Burials, Mounds and Cemeteries