California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Protocols for Safe Handling & Disposal of Carcasses

  1. All dead animals should be handled only while wearing gloves; this includes carrying of dead animals, during necropsy procedures, and the dressing out of carcasses. There are several types of gloves to choose from, including leather, rubber, and latex gloves. Rubber or latex gloves are preferred due to their low cost, wide availability, and ease of disinfecting (latex gloves are disposable).

  2. The carcass should be placed in a plastic body bag and sealed as soon as possible. If a zoonotic disease is suspected (i.e., rabies, tularemia), it is recommended to double bag the carcass.

  3. Avoid direct contact with the dead animal's body fluids (i.e., blood, urine, feces). If contact does occur, wash the skin area contacted with soap and water as soon as possible.

  4. Avoid contact with the dead animal's external parasites (i.e., fleas and ticks). If possible, spray the carcass with a flea & tick spray prior to handling it. If pesticide poisoning is suspected as the cause of death and laboratory testing is to be performed on the animal's tissues, avoid spraying the carcass as it will interfere with laboratory results.

  5. Proper disposal of the carcass (incineration, burying, etc.) is critical to prevent exposure of other wildlife and humans to disease. Three common effective methods of carcass disposal are: incineration, burying, and rendering. Incineration is the preferred method to use when the carcass is diseased; however, it can also be the most expensive. An acceptable alternative is to bury the carcass. The carcass should be buried at least 4 feet deep and covered with lime to discourage scavengers from uncovering and consuming it.

  6. Persons who have direct contact with wildlife, especially carnivorous animals, on a regular basis are highly recommended to receive the rabies pre-exposure vaccination series. The pre-exposure series consists of a total of three vaccinations (refer to Appendix E - California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention, 2004) and is highly efficacious in preventing rabies. It is also recommended to have a rabies antibody titer tested every two years to determine the level of protection.

  7. Whenever there is an unusual mortality or die-off of wildlife the Wildlife Investigations Lab should be contacted to determine if a necropsy and disease investigation is recommended. The carcass(s) should be refrigerated as soon as possible until a decision is made as to its disposition