We have developed an in situ mammalian model for evaluating environmental contamination using wild cotton rats. In a series of experiments, 200 male cotton rats were captured during 4 collection periods (spring 1991 = 35; fall 1991 = 60; spring 1992 = 53; fall 1992 = 52). A total of 103 of these cotton rats were captured from control sites, and the remaining 97 were captured from an abandoned oil refinery. All sites were located in the vicinity of Cyril, Oklahoma. There were alterations in the incisors of cotton rats captured from the refinery site. Normal color of cotton rat incisors is deep yellow-orange, which is imparted by a pigment normally produced by ameloblasts. Grossly, the upper incisors of 37 of 97 rats and lower incisors of 54 of 97 rats were affected. The affected incisors were white, chalky, and thin with striations and erosions of the enamel. Microscopic examination revealed that there were dysplastic and necrotic changes in the ameloblasts. The bone fluoride levels were significantly higher in rats captured from the refinery as compared to the rats captured from the control sites.