Project Update: Field Necropsy Training in Maine


Once considered “irregular and anecdotal,” the population of lynx in Maine has been increasing since the late 1990s in response to the abundance of high quality habitat for lynx and their main prey, snowshoe hares. A radio collaring study done in 1999 revealed that a resident population of lynx occurs in Maine. As mentioned in Volume 3, Number 3 (July 2016) of NWDC NOTES, NWDC staff and pathologists at the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (NHVDL) have begun collaborating with biologists at Maine Division of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) on a lynx health project. In this study, we are: 1) looking for any lesions, 2) assessing some nutritional factors, 3) assessing (qualitatively) enteric parasite colonization, 4) attempting to find a gamma herpes virus, and 5) caching frozen tissue samples for future studies. The quality of the tissues recovered from the lynx carcasses examined thus far have been fair, with the effects of freezing and thawing predictably noticeable. It has become clear that the most effective way to get the best samples and data from each animal is for a field necropsy to be performed as soon as the animal is found. Representative sections of the tissues can be placed in formalin, and portions of pertinent organs can be stored on ice or frozen immediately as well. As an added bonus, the cost for examination of tissues obtained during a field necropsy is far less than the cost of a full necropsy, and the transport of a formalin container is much easier and less expensive than a whole carcass.

With this in mind, NWDC staff (Dr. Walt Cottrell) and pathologists from NHVDL (Drs. Brian Stevens and David Needle) conducted a 1-day field necropsy training workshop on May 25 at the MDIFW field offce in Sidney, Maine. Twelve biologists attended the 5 hour training (1000 – 1500) where the program included a short introductory presentation, a necropsy demonstration with Q&A; and, in the afternoon, the biologists were “let loose” to necropsy a total of 15 lynx. The response to this focused training was enthusiastic, and everyone felt more comfortable and competent at the end. We encourage similar field necropsy trainings in other member states as a way to decrease diagnostic costs incurred by the agencies and, by extension, increase submissions! The more animals we examine (ie, surveil), the more likely we are to detect the presence of disease and to launch a timely response.