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Reporting Dead Wildlife

Please follow the information below if you encounter dead wildlife. Dead animals are usually submitted to DEC's Wildlife Health Unit (WHU) at the Wildlife Resources Center for examination and diagnosis.

Types of Cases to Report

The following cases are of highest interest to the WHU and other DEC programs:

  • Any wildlife that died by questionable causes.
  • Wildlife of special interest or marked/tagged specimens (e.g. endangered/threatened animals; research study animals) regardless if the cause of death appears obvious.
  • Mass mortality or recurring mortality.
  • Exception: Animals suspected of being rabid (including all bats found indoors where human contact may have occurred), and for which a significant exposure (bite, scratch, contact with saliva or nervous tissue) to humans has occurred should be reported to local county or municipal health departments.

Who to Contact

Notify a DEC Regional Wildlife Office near you to determine what actions, if any, are necessary for submission or disposal of the wildlife in question. If assistance from the Regional Wildlife Office is not available, call the WHU directly at (518) 478-2203.

Submission of Animals for Examination

If DEC determines that examination is desirable, Regional Wildlife Office staff will collect the animal(s) and arrange for delivery. If for some reason staff is unable to assist in the submission process, direct submission to the WHU may be an option.
For advice, call DEC's WHU at (518) 478-2203 between 8:30 AM and 5:00 PM.

  • Exception: In some DEC Regions, persons reporting dead birds may be directed to contact their local county health department when West Nile Virus surveillance is a concern. In such cases, the health department will assist in submission of the birds to the WHU.

Submitting Specimen(s) Documentation

Complete the Specimen Submission Form (PDF) (206 KB). The completed form must be e-mailed to the appropriate lab (e-mail addresses are on the form) and a copy must be kept with the specimen(s) being submitted.

Handling Dead Animals

Dead wildlife can be a health threat to people and other animals. If professional assistance is unavailable or delayed, the following general guidance is offered:

  • Be sure the animal is dead before touching or getting too close.
  • Avoid direct contact with the carcass or carcass fluids.
  • Be careful of teeth, claws, bone splinters, or porcupine quills.
  • Prevent exposure to pets or farm animals.
  • If packaging is necessary, enclose in multiple plastic bags and enclose bags securely.
    • Small animals (squirrel or crow-sized and smaller) can be packaged simply by inserting one or both hands in a bag, grasping the carcass, and enfolding the bag around it.
    • For larger animals, or for carcasses that have been compromised by extensive trauma, decay, or maggot infestation, insert the bag into a can/pail/bucket, then use a shovel to deposit the animal into the bag-lined container.
  • If examination by the WHU is likely, place the bagged carcass in a cool location.
  • Disinfect implements used in moving carcasses with a bleach solution (see procedures below).

Contact DEC's WHU directly at (518) 478-2203 if substantial delays are expected, or if you have additional questions.

Carcass Disposal

If there is no reason for submission and it is desirable to dispose of a carcass for sanitary or esthetic reasons, two options exist:

  • Burial in a location that will protect both surface water and ground water from contamination.
    • Keep at least 200 feet away from wells used to supply drinking water.
    • Be sure the carcass is covered with at least 2 feet of soil.
  • Disposal at a landfill.
  • Triple-bag carcasses in all cases.

Disinfection Procedures

In case of exposure or contamination:

  • Skin: Wash skin thoroughly with hot water and soap. Consult your physician if you have sustained an injury (a bite, scratch, or puncture).
  • Tools, Instruments, Hard Surfaces: Immerse or flood items with a 10% chlorine bleach solution (1 part household bleach, 9 parts water). Let stand for 10 minutes. Scrub and rinse thoroughly.
  • Clothing: Pre-soak clothing in a 5% chlorine bleach solution (1 part bleach, 19 parts water) for 10 minutes and then wash with hot water and laundry detergent. To avoid damage to colors or fabrics, other household disinfectant products may be used, although many of these are less effective than chlorine bleach.

Note: Many pathogens are inactivated by heat, drying, and sunlight.

More Information

Links to some of the more common or important wildlife diseases can be found on the Animal Diseases page.