Necropsy & Pathology

Science Center Objects

The Necropsy and Pathology capabilities are performed by diagnostic veterinary pathologists and necropsy technical staff whose principal role is to determine the cause of death for animals submitted to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC).  These scientists examine carcasses to verify species and condition, collect and process photographic and radiographic images, conduct detailed necropsies, collect appropriate samples for histological preparation, and collect and submit appropriate tissue samples for diagnostic laboratory evaluation.  Histology, laboratory assay results, and necropsy findings are interpreted by pathologists to infer cause of death.

Pathology Capabilities

NWHC Necropsy

Necropsy of bird performed by NWHC pathologist. (Public domain.)

Pathology Expertise:

  • Infectious disease: viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic
  • Toxicity: natural, anthropogenic (pesticides, contaminants, heavy metals), malicious, incidental
  • Trauma: electrocution, gunshot, vehicular trauma, intraspecific aggression, etc.
  • Degenerative, nutritional and metabolic diseases
  • Detecting emerging diseases and novel trends
  • Forensic investigations for legal cases
  • Assistance with natural resource damage assessments

Specialties and specific interests:

  • Wildlife, birds, mammals (e.g., bats and sea otters), amphibians, reptiles
  • Emerging diseases and diseases that cause significant wildlife populations declines or ecological disturbance, including harmful algal blooms and associated affects, amphibian declines, white-nose syndrome, corals, parasites, infectious and novel disease agents.

Notable wildlife mortality cases are highlighted in the Pathology Case of the Month series.