Disposal of Wild Animal Carcasses

Once an animal is deceased, all of its remains (e.g. body, feathers, fur, claws, teeth, antlers, and bones) must be disposed of properly to prevent potential risks to public health, other animals, or the environment if the animal was contagious or contaminated and to help stem illegal wildlife trade. The AVMA's Animal Carcass Disposal web page is a members' only resource that provides a detailed discussion of carcass disposal and the options available.

When disposing of animal carcasses, veterinarians must comply with local, state, and federal regulations while also striving to meet the needs of the owner if the animal is owned. Some basic tips include:

  • Contact your state wildlife management agency to report the death and to find out if there are disposal restrictions or special requirements for the particular species
  • Check with the proper authorities before removing any identification (e.g. tags, collars, and bands) from the carcass. More likely than not, the authorities need the identification to remain attached to the animal.
  • Ensure that any device, such as a radio collar, that might be attached to the animal is secured for retrieval by authorized personnel.
  • Ensure that the entire animal is relinquished to the authorities or disposed of properly if the authorities do not require the remains. Saving any parts of the animal (e.g. feathers, claws, teeth, fur) may be illegal and may pose health risks.

Cases involving certain species, such as threatened or endangered species, migratory birds, birds of prey, and certain game species, require that the proper authorities must be contacted. Examples of such include:

  • Endangered or threatened migratory birds – Approval from your local Fish and Wildlife Office is required prior to disposing of or transferring any carcasses, parts, or feathers of endangered or threatened migratory birds. Federal regulations detailed in 50 CFR 21.12(c) specifically address what veterinarians can and cannot do regarding handling and disposal of endangered or threatened migratory birds.
  • Bald and Golden Eagles – All carcasses, parts, and feathers of bald and golden eagles must be sent to the National Eagle Repository (address below) after you have satisfied the requirements of your state regulations.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
National Eagle Repository
Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Building 128
Commerce City, Colorado 80022
phone: (303) 287-2110
fax: (303) 287-1570