Animal Carcass Disposal Options Explained

Safety firstSafety First

Below are some guidelines to follow for proper disposal of carcasses.

Please Note:These guidelines are based on Nebraska Regulations in effect in 2005. Your state's requirements may differ. We have chosen to utilize Nebraska Regulations as they provide a useful way to help people act in responsible manner when handling wildlife carcasses.

When handling carcasses always wear gloves, preferably thick leather, to reduce the risk of being scratched and otherwise exposed to animal fluids. Some people like to use leather welder’s gloves for their durability and construction that provides protection for the hands and the wrist. For additional protection wear latex or vinyl gloves inside the leather gloves.

Personnel should also be aware that ticks and fleas present a health risk as they leave the dead carcass in search of a new host.

Carcass Disposal Options

Above ground (exposure)

Pros

  • Easy. Simply place the animal in an isolated spot. Choose isolated locations to reduce encounters with pets and people.
  • Good option for situations where only a single carcass needs to be disposed of.
  • Environmentally friendly as scavengers can recycle the carcass back into the biosphere.

Cons

  • Shouldn't be used for the carcasses of sick (or suspected of being sick) or poisoned animals.
  • Can increase the population of unwanted scavengers like coyotes.
  • Public relations risk if pets or people encounter the carcass.
  • Sites should be 100 yards from surface water.

Below ground, individual grave

All of these conditions must be met:

  • The carcass must be covered by at least 2 feet of soil within 24 hours after burial.
  • The carcass must not come into contact with surface or groundwater.
  • The number of individual graves must not exceed 100 graves per acre.
  • The grave must be located at least 200 feet from any groundwater well that is used to supply potable drinking water.

Pros

  • Publicly acceptable.
  • Reduces the risk of random contact with the hiking public and domestic animals.
  • Reduces scavenging.

Cons

  • Digging is hard work, especially in heavily treed or rocky areas.
  • Risk of cutting underground pipe or wires. (Contact Digsafe before digging).
  • Scavengers may still dig up carcass if not dug to sufficient depth.

Below ground, common grave

All of these conditions must be met:

  • The number of carcasses in a common grave should not exceed 250.
  • Each individual carcass should be covered with at least 12 inches of soil within 24 hours after burial.
  • The common grave should not remain open for more than 30 days and should have at least 4 feet of soil as final cover.
  • The number of common graves should not exceed 5 graves per acre.
  • The carcasses must not come into contact with surface or groundwater and must not be disposed of in a 100-year floodplain or wetland area as defined by the Solid Waste Management Act.
  • The common grave must be located at least 200 feet from any groundwater well that is used to supply potable drinking water.

Pros

  • Convenient way of disposing large quanties of carcasses.
  • Can be very cost effective.

Cons

  • Need for heavy digging equipment.
  • Difficulty in finding suitable property.

Incineration

The incinerator must be approved by state and local authorities to burn pathological waste.

Pros

  • Safe and publicly acceptable form of disposal.

Cons

  • Cost--can be expensive
  • May be difficult to find crematorium willing to take wildlife carcasses.

Landfill

The carcass must be securely enclosed in a plastic bag or other suitable air-tight container to prevent noxious odors and disposed of at a Type II licensed solid waste disposal facility (standard landfill) or at an out-of-state facility in accordance with that state’s solid waste disposal regulations.

Pros

  • Convenient (most communities have access to landfills).
  • Cost effective.

Cons

  • Not all facility managers will grant permission due to personal distaste for activity. (how do they distinguish between rotting steak and a rotting raccoon?).

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