Intro To Condition Codes

How fresh is that carcass? The answer to this question will determine how much information you can potentially get from the animal and what kind of follow up exam you should potentially do. Fresh animals will be candidates for a full necropsy while code 3 or 4 animals may be better suited for a beach necropsy or simple exam.  After reviewing the condition codes be sure to test your knowledge by taking the condition code QUIZ!


Below you will find information about how to tell the subtle and not so subtle clues to determining the condition code of an animal.

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sea lion code 1 code 1 harbor porpoise


CONDITION SCORE = 1: A LIVE-STRANDED sea lion and a live harbor porpoise. These are easy to identify!


sea lion code 2  harbor porpoise code 2


CONDITION SCORE = 2: A FRESHLY DEAD sea lion and harbor porpoise. The animals appear almost indistinguishable from a sleeping animal from a distance. The carcass is intact and does not smell rotten, the fur is difficult to pull out in the sea lion and the porpoise skin is intact with minimal or no sloughing observed.  The animal is not bloated.


sea lion code 3  harbor porpoise code 3


CONDITION SCORE = 3: A MODERATELY DECOMPOSED sea lion and harbor porpoise. There is mild to moderate gas distension.  In the sea lion, the fur appears to be in the early stages of sloughing.  In the harbor porpoise the skin is beginning to slough and is getting "crackly" and hard.  The smell of decomposition may be discernable at this time if the carcass is approached.


sea lion code 4  Harbor porpoise code 4


BODY CONDITION = 4: A stranded sea lion and harbor porpoise showing ADVANCED DECOMPOSITION. The sea lion carcass is very distended with gas and tissue is sloughing away from the face, flippers and pelvis. The harbor porpoise is soft, having already passed the bloated stage.  There is a lot of sloughing over the whole body and the fluke is missing.  The smell of decomposition is typically strongest at this time.


sea lion code 5  harbor porpoise code 5


CONDITION SCORE = 5: This is a MUMMIFIED sea lion and a SKELETAL harbor porpoise. Postmortem deterioration has advanced to the point that the sea lion carcass has become a flattened and desiccated shell. At this stage, limbs and internal organs are often missing or unrecognizable. At a distance the smell of decomposition may be surprisingly mild for mummified carcasses as the process of decomposition is nearing completion, with only the toughest tissue parts remaining: The bones and hide.  The harbor porpoise has decomposed even further and all that remains is the skeleton with bits of tissue.