The Vertebrate Museum has about 26,000 specimens of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. All are housed within Foster Hall, in the Department of Biology at New Mexico State University. The collections span the history of NMSU. They are primarily representative of the fauna of New Mexico, but they also include specimens from across the United States of America and even other continents. All specimens are preserved and stored in accordance with their primary use in research, and secondarily in general education. Few specimens are mounted for display, and the museum has no exhibits for unsupervised visitation except the Minke whale skeleton in the entrance of Foster Hall.
The Vertebrate Museum includes separate facilities for storage of study skins, skeletons, and alcohol-preserved specimens. It includes a modern preparation laboratory, karyotype collections, and ultrafrozen DNA and tissue samples for molecular genetic analysis. The museum is a CITES repository and USDA Approved Institution.
The mission of the Vertebrate Museum is to serve in research and education. It is a repository for voucher specimens that document original research by scientists and students, and these specimens are available for loan or examination, upon request, for study by scientists and students performing related research. Research uses tend to focus on particular specimens, whereas educational uses are often met by the breadth of the collections. For example, a great diversity of specimens are used in many courses offered by New Mexico State University.