Frequently Asked Questions

Scattering Ashes

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Scattering Ashes


What is “wildcat scattering”?

Wildcat scattering is the practice of scattering a loved one’s ashes widely, in different locations, and at different times.

The Wall Street Journal describes the practice as “surreptitiously spreading ashes in favorite parks, stadiums, fishing spots or wherever else feels meaningful.”

The scattering locations are planned in a purposeful manner, and scattering is often done without permission. Other people besides the next of kin sometimes are involved in helping to scatter portions of the ashes in faraway locations.

The scattering locations are often chosen for their significance to the deceased and/or to the surviving relative. For example, a husband might want to honor his wife’s love for travel by scattering a small bit of her ashes at her favorite vacation places.

Wildcat scattering is growing in popularity because of the increase in the overall cremation rate, and also is an indication of Americans’ growing desire to personalize their mourning and memorialization rituals.

What are some creative ways to scatter the ashes of a loved one?

Creative scattering options include aerial scattering from a plane, hot air balloon, or drone; scattering at sea; and incorporating ashes into fireworks displays.

“Wildcat scattering,” or the practice of scattering cremated remains widely in different locations, is also growing in popularity.

Do you need permission to scatter ashes on a public beach?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not permit the scattering of ashes on public beaches or in tidal pools.

Do you need permission to scatter ashes in a public park?

If you want to scatter the ashes in a park, you will need to contact the municipality and find out if they require a permit.

Are there any benefits in paying for a scattering service to disperse my loved one’s ashes, instead of doing the scattering myself?

If you contract with a scattering service, you may have greater flexibility in choosing the time, location, and method of scattering. For example, you may choose to have the ashes scattered by air in a beautiful, remote location that would not be otherwise accessible.

The scattering service also has control over scheduling, and can keep the ashes stored securely until the optimal time for scattering.

What is a scattering garden?

A scattering garden is a plot of land set aside for scattering the cremated remains of humans or pets. The scattering garden is usually owned by a cemetery or crematory.

Along with the scattering garden, the facility may offer memorial options, such as a memorial plaque, wall, or piece of art on which the names are inscribed, or a living memorial, such as a tree with a plaque. Some scattering gardens maintain a book of remembrance for patrons, a decorated register containing the names of the people whose ashes have been scattered in the garden.

What kind of container will the funeral home provide if you tell them you intend to scatter the ashes?

The funeral home will return the ashes to you in some type of temporary container, or temporary cremation urn. This type of container is designed to hold the ashes securely but is not necessarily intended for permanent storage of the ashes.

It is most commonly made of plastic, rectangular in shape, and has a hinged lid that can be opened to access the ashes. The ashes may be stored inside a closed plastic bag inside the temporary urn.

Can you scatter ashes in a national park?

It is generally permitted to scatter ashes in national parks within the United States, provided it is done according to park guidelines and regulations, which may vary from one park to another.

If you are interested in scattering ashes in a particular park, contact the park superintendent’s office or visit the park website for more information.

Is scattering at sea provided as a free burial benefit for veterans?

The U.S. Navy provides a burial-at-sea or scattering ceremony for a deceased veteran from any branch of the armed forces, at no cost to the family. The person authorized to direct disposition – usually a family member – will be responsible for expenses associated with cremating the deceased and shipping the remains to the desired point of embarkation.

Additional information on the burial-at-sea ceremony is available here.

Is there a cost involved in scattering ashes in the ocean?

If you hire the services of a charter boat or a flying service to help facilitate scattering of the ashes, the company will charge you a fee. The cost may vary from one provider to another, so you may want to check with several companies to compare prices.

On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to know someone who has a private boat or airplane, you can take the boat or plane and scatter the ashes yourself.

The Environmental Protection Agency requires that any scattering be done at least 3 nautical miles out from shore. They also require that you submit a report of any at-sea burials within 30 days of the event.

Can ashes be scattered on private property?

Generally speaking, yes – provided you obtain permission from the property owner. In some cases, a permit may be required as well.

What is aerial scattering?

Aerial scattering involves the use of a plane, hot air balloon, drone, or other airborne device to disperse the cremated ashes while in flight. A number of private and commercial companies across the country provide this service.

Aerial scattering is a creative option that allows the family to scatter their loved one’s ashes over scenic and remote areas that might not be otherwise accessible.

Is it legal to scatter ashes anywhere you want?

No. Depending on the location, there may be a number of local and governmental restrictions that prohibit the scattering of ashes in populated areas, certain public areas, some national parks, and other areas. In some cases, a permit may be required.

If you are considering scattering the ashes of a loved one on public lands, it is best to contact the agency that has jurisdiction over that area. This information can usually be found by conducting an online search. If you are considering scattering the ashes on private property, be sure to obtain permission from the owner first.