Carcass Transport

Transporting a carcass can be tricky business. Larger animals pose particular difficulties. Logistical issues that must be considered include safety of volunteers, staff, and the public as well as the location of the animal, the tidal schedule, and beach access.

Below you will find helpful hints on securing and transporting carcasses safely.

Carcass Transport 01 Pictured is a FRESHLY DEAD SEA LION ON THE BEACH at Monterey Bay. The animal's location and other factors will determine the next steps: Safe transport and LABORATORY NECROPSY, or FIELD NECROPSY? While the decision is being made, it is critically importnat to keep the carcass as cool as possible. This can be dome by WETTING THE CARCASS with cool water, MOVING IT INTO A SHADY SPOT out of the sun, placing ICE around and on top of the carcass or ideally, moving it to REFRIGERATION as soon as possible. Ingenuity is the key here! One of the authors once received a well-preserved carcass from a remote coastal area nestled in packets of frozen, home-made soup from a volunteer's freezer! For small marine mammals, COOLERS work wonderfully for transport and carcass cooling.

Carcass Transport 02 Taking time to DOCUMENT where, when and how the animal was first encountered is CRITICAL. CONTACT INFORMATION for the person reporting the animal should be recorded, as well as the PROXIMITY of the carcass to other live and dead animals, STRANDING LOCATION, LOCAL TOPOGRAPHY (eg sandy beach, rocky intertidal, etc.) or other factors. If the animal was alive initially, important information may be gained from CLINICAL OBSERVATIONS. If you suspect a CRIME has been committed (eg GUNSHOT)it is especially important to note the TIME and DATE OF RECOVERY, check carefully around the carcass for POTENTIAL CLUES and maintain a CONTACT LIST of anyone who came in contact with the carcass from the time it was discovered and reported (eg CHAIN OF CUSTODY). If the carcass is not fresh it may be advisable to dig beneath it for BULLETS or other crime evidence that has dropped out of the carcass. At least MARK THE LOCATION so specialists can go back and search, if needed. Searches and crime scene investigation should be completed with the oversight of necropsy experts and law enforcement personnel.

Carcass Transport 03 Knowing the LOCAL CUSTOMS can provide helpful information. This decomposed sea lion was marked with colored string by local stranding volunteers, indicating that the carcass had been present on the beach at the time of their last monitoring walk. The efforts of STRANDING or BEACHWALK VOLUNTEERS provide valuable insight on patterns of carcass deposition over time, and these groups are often the first to report unusual stranding patterns. It is also not uncommon to find ROPE tied on decomposed marine mammals on the beach. Careful examination may be required to distinguish rope placed by criminals hoping to hide a body from innocent persons wishing to move a smelly carcass out of their local area. The discovery of netting, fishing line or other material on a carcass is also potentially important. THIS MAY ALSO REPRESENT A CRIME: THUS, NEVER REMOVE OR DISPLACE THESE ITEMS PRIOR TO PHOTOGRAPHY AND COMPLETE EXAMINATION BY A SPECIALIST!

Carcass Transport 04 All dead animals have an important story to tell, but this one is especially important as it was TAGGED as a live animal as part of a study! Necropsy of such tagged animals will provide important insight as to LIFE HISTORY, MOVEMENT PATTERNS, REPRODUCTION, DIET and MAJOR CAUSES OF MORTALITY. This is especially true when the information learned from necropsy is pooled with data obtained while the animal was alive.
Carcass Transport 05 Once located, simple transport devices can be devised from available materials such as this simple ROPE TOW. This means of transportation will work well for transport along SHORT DISTANCES along SANDY BEACHES. However, transport for larger carcasses, longer distances and rocky terrain requires different equipment, or substantial damage to the carcass may result prior to necropsy.
Carcass Transport 06 Safe transport from the stranding location to the transport vehicle and necropsy facility is far easier with the right equipment! However, in a pinch a variety of more primitive transport devices can be used, including canvas or plastic sheets or bags. Safety, carcass size and carcass location are important considerations. The foldout device shown above is used for transport of small to medium-sized carcasses found on sandy beaches.
Carcass Transport 07 This specially designed transport device has large wheels and folds for easy storage. For transport or necropsy of larger carcasses, special equipment such as CHAIN OR ROPE PULLEY SYSTEMS, WINCHES, FLENSING TOOLS and FLATBED TRUCKS are sometimes used. For large cetaceans, sometimes BOATS are required to move the carcass to a safe spot for necropsy or to haul away carcasses once the necropsy is completed. Depending on local laws, sometimes HEAVY EQUIPMENT will be required to bury the carcasses once a necropsy is completed. Anyone who has been in the marine mammal necropsy business for some time will have exciting stories to share about their efforts to necropsy or transport large marine mammals!