Animal Handling, Euthanasia, and Disposal Information
Animal Handling Defined:
Animal handling is an umbrella word that encompasses all activities starting from the capture of an animal to its final disposition. More narrowly, animal handling refers to the time of the animal’s capture to the time of its death or release from human control.
Euthanasia of Animals
While it may not be pleasant, the fact remains that lethal control of wildlife is often necessary. This page contains information and links to methods approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Capture Methods vs. Euthanasia Methods
When discussing the humane treatment of wildlife, it is important to distinguish between capture methods and euthanasia. Use of a body-gripping trap to control a beaver is a capture method, not a euthanasia technique. Granted, the conibear-style trap will kill the beaver, but its first task is to capture it.
The term euthanasia relates to how an animal is killed when it is under your direct control. Animals under your direct control would include those captured in cage traps or ketch poles.
Due to the emotional involvement people have with wildlife, it is highly recommended that all killing of wildlife, whether by the capture device or by euthanasia methods, occur away from public view. Failure to follow this advice can result in a great deal of unwanted attention and public scrutiny regarding your activities.
Euthanasia means “Good Death.” Euthanasia seeks to have the animal die in such a manner such that it is not suffering during the death process. Technically this is understood as meaning that the animal is unconscious during the death process.
Your goal is to minimize the stress of the animal whenever possible. It is suggested that:
- Only one animal be euthanized at a time.
- Animals should not be able to see other animals being euthanized.
- Animals should be handled as gently (and as little) as possible before and during the euthanasia process. Animals can be kept calm by covering the traps with old blankets, towels, etc. Speaking in calm tones can also reduce animal stress.
- Euthanasia should not occur in public view.
- Confirmation of death can be difficult in field settings. We recommend that you consider all the signs before making a decision as to whether the animal is truly deceased. Important signs of death include:
- Respiration has stopped. Check to see if the chest has stopped expanding and contracting. You may have to look carefully for up to 3 minutes as some animals have very shallow breathing.
- Heart has stopped beating. You will need to use a stethoscope and training to properly determine this sign.
- Corneal Reflex: The animal should no longer blink, the eyes should be fixed, and the pupils (the black portion of the eye) dilated in size. Use a gloved hand to touch the pupil. Dead animals will not react.
- Muscle tone: Dead animals will no longer be able to stand and they should appear limp and flaccid.
If you desire to make absolutely sure the animal is dead, you may perform cervical dislocation (small animals) or thoracic compression for larger ones. Take care to protect yourself from exposure to the animal’s teeth and body fluids while performing these additional euthanasia techniques. You should be cautioned that thoracic compression on skunks may result in some of the skunk essence being discharged from the scent glands. Rigor mortis, decapitation, or loss of vital organs are also conclusive proof of death.
When euthanasia is required, the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission (NGPC) recommends the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) methods available below. The following guidelines for these euthanasia techniques are written with Nebraska State Laws in mind. Your state may have different rules. Always check local laws before initiating wildlife damage management.
The AVMA approved methods include but are not limited to:
Animal Disposal Methods
- AVMA 2020 Euthanasia Guidelines
- American Society of Mammalogists: 2016 Guidelines for the use of wild mammals in research.
- Contains chapters on trapping, euthanasia, etc.