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The Necropsy and Pathology services are performed by board-certified 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.

These scientists examine carcasses to verify species and condition, collect and process photographic and radiographic images, conduct detailed necropsies, collect appropriate samples for histological examination, and collect and submit appropriate tissue samples for diagnostic laboratory evaluation.  Histology, laboratory test results, and necropsy findings are interpreted by pathologists to determine cause of death.

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

Pathology Capabilities

Pathology Expertise:

  • Infectious disease: viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic
  • Toxins and toxicants: natural, anthropogenic contaminants (pesticides, 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
  • Assistance with threatened and endangered species recovery programs

Specialties and specific interests:

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

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