Dead Bird Handling

Last Review Date: January 3, 2018

I. Responsibility

At the University of Montana Field Research Station at Fort Missoula, it is the responsibility of the person discovering a dead bird to remove the carcass(es), whether that person is a Lab Animal Technician, Graduate student, or Principal Investigator.

II. Procedure

Dead birds are to be removed as soon after their death as possible, as carcasses are unsightly, can disturb remaining birds, and may become vectors for the transmission of infectious agents.  Each time a dead bird is found, the appropriate procedures must be followed:

  • Remove the dead bird from the cage or aviary observing appropriate body substance isolation precautions. Appropriate precautions include gloves and boots. These precautions should include gloves, lab coat, boots, and mask if infectious agents are suspected.
  • Place bird in an appropriately sized Ziploc bag available from the flight room storage drawer.
  • Label the outside of the bag with the date and mechanism of death (if known) using a black permanent marker.
  • Determine whether or not to save the specimen for necropsy or future dissection.
    • If an infectious and transmissible disease process is suspected- bird must be kept refrigerated (NOT FROZEN) and the appropriate veterinary staff must be contacted immediately in order to arrange for necropsy.  Place the original Ziploc into another Ziploc bag and place in the refrigerator in room QS 108A.  Label the outer bag with the words "FOR NECROPSY - QUARANTINE".  Also, include any individual identification information and notify the Lab Manager and PI of the situation.
    • If the bird is to be preserved for future dissection or has been an active study subject, the bird should be placed into the specimen freezer in QS111.  The Ziploc should be labeled with any pertinent identification information for the individual.
  • If the bird was a study subject, the appropriate individuals should be notified, to include the Lab Manager and the PI.  If the bird was not a study subject, the Lab Manager should be notified.
  • If the bird is not suspected to have died of an unknown disease process (i.e., has obviously been pecked to death by aviary-mates) AND is not a study subject, then the bird may be sealed into a black garbage bag and disposed of in the outside garbage container that is emptied every Friday morning.
  • Each bird's death must be recorded in the "Dead Animal Log" that is located in the Animal protocol book in QS102.  If the bird is to be necropsied, this must be notated there as well.