Tag Archives: Wildlife Investigation Laboratory

Turkey Vultures Poisoned by Euthanasia Drugs

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has confirmed that several turkey vultures have been poisoned from the veterinary euthanasia drug pentobarbital in the Simi Valley area of Ventura County.

Seven turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) were found dead or impaired in Simi Valley in October. Two of these were successfully rehabilitated by the Ojai Raptor Center, but the other five died. Pentobarbital exposure was confirmed in the digestive system of one of the dead turkey vultures. The source of the exposure remains unknown.

Pentobarbital is a drug used by veterinarians to euthanize companion animals, livestock and horses. If the remains of animals euthanized with pentobarbital are not properly disposed of after death, scavenging wildlife – such as turkey vultures and eagles – can be poisoned. Veterinarians and animal owners are responsible for disposing of animal remains properly by legal methods such as cremation or deep burial.

Turkey vultures are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and California Fish and Game Code. Improperly disposed-of euthanized remains are a danger to all scavenging wildlife.

Members of the veterinary and livestock communities are asked to share this information with colleagues in an effort to prevent further incidents.

CDFW also asks the public to pay attention to and report grounded turkey vultures and other raptors and scavengers.

Pentobarbital-poisoned birds appear to be dead. They have no reflex response and breathing can barely be detected. The birds appear intact, without wounds or obvious trauma. Anyone finding a comatose vulture should report the finding to CDFW at 916-358-2954.

Brown and black turkey vulture with pinkish-red face on the stub of a tree limb, seen from the back
Turkey vulture on the stub of a tree limb. USFWS photos

Media Contacts:
Stella McMillin,  CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab, (916) 358-2954
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420


DFG Continues Investigation of Western Grey Squirrel Deaths

 Media Contacts:
Jeff  Villepique, DFG Wildlife Biologist, 760-937-5966
Janice Mackey, DFG Communications, 916-322-8908

Residents of
San Bernardino Mountains Asked to Help Collect Information

Last spring, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) received reports from residents of sick and dying western gray squirrels in Big Bear Valley. 

Researchers from DFG, the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab in

Western Grey Squirrel

San Bernardino, and University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine concluded the squirrels were dying from complications of mange, a contagious skin disease caused by parasitic mites that burrow into the skin of affected animals, causing intense itching and infection. 

Surveys conducted in spring of 2012 yielded only a handful of western gray squirrels in areas of the Big  BearValley where squirrels were once plentiful.

Local residents are now being asked to help collect data so researchers can better understand past abundance, where sick squirrels have been observed, and where western gray squirrels are now. The website address to report information is at: https://sites.google.com/a/ucdavis.edu/san-bernardino-squirrels

Information provided by the public will help construct a picture of what happened to the squirrel population in the San Bernardino Mountains and help track the pace of their re-growth. In addition, this information will also help researchers determine whether conservation measures can be taken to prevent further loses of squirrels.

The species of mange mites affecting gray squirrels, Notoedres centrifera, is specific to rodents and cannot infect humans or pet cats and dogs. Veterinary researchers caution residents that local wildlife, including coyotes, raccoons and bobcats often carry other species of mange that can infect their pets and, rarely, people. If your pet scratches excessively or develops scabs, you should seek veterinary care as symptoms could be from one of the other forms of mange, which are readily treatable.