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Chapter 4 - Disease Control Operations

Author: Milton Friend and J. Christian Franson

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Disease Control Operations

Individual disease outbreaks have killed many thousands of animals on numerous occasions. Tens of thousands of migratory birds have died in single die-offs with as many as 1,000 birds succumbing in 1 day. The ability to successfully combat such explosive situations is highly dependent on the readiness of field personnel to deal with them. Because many disease agents can spread through wildlife populations very quickly, advance preparation is essential for preventing infected animals from spreading disease to additional species and locations. Carefully thought-out disease contingency plans should be developed as practical working documents for field personnel and updated as necessary. Well-designed plans can prove invaluable in minimizing wildlife losses and the costs associated with disease control activities.

Although requirements for disease control operations vary and must be tailored to each situation, all disease contingency planning involves general concepts and basic biological information. This chapter, which is intended to be a practical guide, identifies the major activities and needs of disease control operations, and relates them to disease contingency planning.

Planning Activities

Identification Of Needs

Effective planning for combating wildlife disease outbreaks requires an understanding of disease control operations and the basic needs such as personnel, equipment and supplies, permits, etc, that are associated with them (Tables 4.l and 4.2). This information is the basis of disease contingency planning (Table 4.3; Figs. 4.1 and 4.2).

Figure 4.1 Brochures and Documents
Click Photo for full-page view(A) Station brochures, animal lists and other public-use documents provide a wide variety of site-specific background information and should be included as part of the station's disease contingency plan. Click Photo for full-page view(B) Documents containing maps of the area indicating access points provide essential information.


Figure 4.2 Existing work areas used for disease control operations on a wildlife management area
Click Illustration for full-page view1. Command post and headquarters administrative area
2. Staff and press briefing room
3. Parking
4. Eating area and conference room
5. Staff rest area and visitor's center
6. Equipment and supply receipt-garage
7. Decontamination areas-boathouses, transition areas, parking lots
8. Carcass disposal site and observation hill
9. Animal holding-pole barn (has cement slab and electricity)
10. Laboratory investigations-shed (has cement slab, water, electricity)

Biological Data Records

All disease outbreaks consist of three main components: a susceptible host population, a disease agent interface, and the environment in which the host and agent interact in a manner that results in disease. Disease control involves breaking the connections between these factors. Disease contingency plans expedite these efforts by providing basic information about the distribution and types of animal populations in the area, animal movement patterns, any history of disease problems on the area, and general environmental features. This information, along with facts gathered at the time of a disease outbreak, provides a profile for biological assessment and a basis for specific disease control actions.

Knowledge of the types of disease problems that have occurred in the area, their general locations, the month and year when they occurred, the species affected, and the general magnitude of losses is also of considerable value for planning a response to a disease outbreak. Incorporate a historical summary in tabular form in the contingency plan (Table 4.4). Animal population data are best represented by simple graphs and charts that convey general characteristics (Fig. 4.3); precise data are not needed. Generalized outline maps are useful for depicting concentration and feeding areas used by wildlife (Fig. 4.4) and major movement patterns (Fig. 4.5).

Figure 4.3 Examples of how to present data on seasonal and annual wildlife use of a specific area.
Click Illustration for full-page view(A) General Narrative format with map Click Illustration for full-page view(B) Seasonal waterfowl populations by species. Click Illustration for full-page view(C) Total duck and goose use by month. Click Illustration for full-page view(D) Total duck and goose use by year.
  • April-August: Nesting birds and broods on mud and clay lakes and adjacent uplands.
  • September-mid-October: Fall migrants using mud and clay lakes.
  • Mid-October-January: During hunting season, birds concentrated on clay lake and adjacent marsh
  • February-March: After hunting season, birds distributed between Mud and Clay Lakes.


Figure 4.4 Example of an outline map showing concentration and feeding areas used by wildlife
Click Illustration for full-page viewContents:
Major use areas
Figure 4.5 Example of an outline map showing major movement patterns of species
Click Illustration for full-page viewContents
Major movement patterns
Major use areas

Response Activities

Response to wildlife die-offs will vary somewhat with the species but will always involve a set of common factors. Waterfowl die-offs are used to illustrate specific approaches to addressing these common factors. For large mammals, their size and weight pose additional needs regarding carcass transport and disposal.

Problem Identification

Early detection and rapid and accurate assessment of the causes of disease problems are essential to effective disease control operations. This is accomplished through surveillance of animal populations to detect sick and dead wildlife, and the prompt submission of specimens to qualified disease diagnostic facilities. The speed with which large numbers of animals can become exposed to disease agents and the differences in control activities required for different types of disease problems place a premium on both the speed and accuracy of diagnostic assessments. Once a disease problem has been identified, the following basic activities are carried out.

Carcass Removal: Protective Clothing and Supplies

Wildlife that have died from disease are often a primary source of the disease agent, and for most situations their carcasses need to be removed from the environment to prevent disease transmission to other animals through contact with or consumption of the carcass. Disease organisms released from tissues and body fluids as carcasses decompose also contaminate the environment. Some disease-causing viruses and bacteria can survive for several weeks or longer in pond water, mud, and soil.

Because carcass collection concentrates diseased material in a small area, it is essential that carcasses be handled so that they do not release infectious agents into the environment or jeopardize the health of personnel. Great care also needs to be taken to prevent mechanical movement of the disease agent from the problem area to other areas.

Personnel assigned to this task need to wear outer garments that provide a protective barrier against direct contact with disease organisms and that can be disinfected and removed before personnel leave the area. Typically, these include boots, coveralls or raingear, gloves, and a head covering (Fig. 4.6).

Use disposable coveralls and outer gloves when possible; the durability and cost of garments are considerations in decisions about whether or not disposable garments will be used. Personnel should remove coveralls and outer gloves before they leave the area, and the garments should be destroyed if they are disposable or they should be double-bagged before they are transported to a location where they can be thoroughly washed before they are reused. Dishwashing gloves, work gloves, and other types of rubber gloves are readily available at hardware and other retail stores, as are scrub brushes for cleaning (Fig. 4.7).

Carcass removal requires heavy-duty plastic bags or containers. Plastic body bags used by the military are excellent for containing wildlife carcasses. Plastic garbage cans lined with commercially available heavy-gauge leaf and litter plastic bags are also excellent containers for transporting carcasses. These containers are especially useful when personnel collect bird carcasses by boat (Fig. 4.8 (A)), and for transporting carcasses in truck beds. Tie the bags shut and secure garbage can lids when transporting these containers to carcass disposal sites (Fig. 4.8 (B)).

Depending on conditions, a variety of watercraft (Fig. 4.9) and all-terrain vehicles (Fig. 4.10) are useful for searching for carcasses and for transporting carcasses to collection and disposal sites. In some instances, the expense of helicopters may be warranted. Pickup trucks and other four-wheel vehicles are also indispensable under some field conditions.

Dogs have been used extensively in wildlife management, and they are a valuable search tool when they are appropriately chosen and handled. Use dogs whenever possible to locate carcasses if there is no disease risk to them. Infectious diseases of wild North American birds do not pose a significant health threat to dogs. Determine disease risk on a case-by-case basis by consulting with wildlife disease specialists. Local retriever clubs or kennels may provide dogs.

The contingency plan should identify sources of various equipment, whether equipment can be borrowed or rented, and contact persons and their telephone numbers. Commonly used supplies and equipment needed to support disease control operations are summarized in Table 4.2.

Figure 4.6
Click Photo for full-page view(A) Protective clothing such as coveralls, boots, head coverings, and gloves should be warn during carcass cleanup activities Click Photo for full-page view(B) Before leaving the area, boots should be decontaminated and outer clothing removed and bagged for transportation to a location where they can be washed before being reused


Figure 4.7
Click Photo for full-page view(A) Examples of readily available disposable and reusable gloves for disease control operations. Dishwashing gloves, surgical gloves, rubber work gloves, and other types can be purchased at drug and hardware stores and medical and laboratory supply houses. Click Photo for full-page view(B) A wide variety of scrub brushes needed for decontaminating boots, equipment, and other surfaces are also readily available from local merchants.


Figure 4.8
Click Photo for full-page view(A) Plastic barrel being used to transport carcasses from collection sites by airboat to disposal site. Note use of plastic bag to line barrel. The plastic bag containing carcasses can be secured, removed, and placed in a second plastic bag for further transportation if disposal site is not at the boat docking location, thereby allowing immediate reuse of the barrel. If the barrel containing carcasses is to be transported to some other location, the plastic bag should be tied closed and a cover placed on the barrel and secured Click Photo for full-page view(B) Examples of improper transportation of carcasses to disposal site. Note un-tied bags, unbagged carcasses, wooden truck bed, and lack of tailgate. Carcasses and fluids contaminated with disease organisms could easily be released from the bags during transit. Fluids could contaminate the truck bed and leak to the ground through the cracks between the wooden boards. Wood absorbs fluids and is much more difficult to decontaminate than a nonporous surface. Also, carcasses could fall out of the truck because there is no tailgate.


Figure 4.9 Different types of (A) motorized and (B) nonmotorized watercraft are useful for carcass collection. Note the use of plastic bags for containment of carcasses and further transportation to disposal sites
Click Photo for full-page view(A) Types of motorized watercraft Click Photo for full-page view(B) Types of nonmotorized watercraft


Figure 4.10 Selection of all-terrain vehicles should be matched to local conditions.
Click Photo for full-page view(A) All-terrain vehicles such as these three-wheel machines can be equipped with small baskets to hold carcasses or live birds Click Photo for full-page view(B) All-terrain vehicles such as these three-wheel machines can be used in water no more than 2-feet deep
Click Photo for full-page view(C) Large tracked vehicles such as this equipment negotiate marshy terrain but are not amphibious. The major advantages of this equipment are the large capacity for carrying personnel, supplies, and equipment and excellent visibility afforded by the height of the vehicle. Click Photo for full-page view(D) Small amphibious vehicles such as this six-wheel machine are capable of transporting two persons and are more stable and versatile than three-wheel vehicles but are much slower on land surfaces.

Carcass Disposal

The primary goal of carcass disposal is to prevent spread of the disease agent to other animals through environmental contamination. Because personnel will handle concentrated amounts of infectious or highly toxic agents, this activity requires proper training and supervision. Incineration, burying, rendering, and composting are the four basic disposal methods.

Incineration is generally the preferred method for disposing of carcasses and contaminated materials associated with wildlife disease outbreaks. However, air-quality standards often preclude open burning, even for disease emergencies. Consider purchasing or constructing portable incinerators (Fig. 4.11) for areas with recurring disease problems if local regulations allow using such equipment. Portable garbage incinerators can sometimes be borrowed from State parks and other sources. If portable incinerators are not available, open burning with tires or other fuel or both can be used, depending on local air pollution standards. Carcasses may be burned either above or below ground (Fig. 4.12). It is important to keep the fire contained and to get sufficient air movement under the carcasses to maintain a hot fire and completely burn the carcasses. Wood, coal, fuel oil, napalm, and other fuels have been successfully used. Never use gasoline because of the hazards involved. Incineration is facilitated by stacking or piling carcasses on the burning platform, soaking them with used oil or some other fuel, and waiting about 10 to 15 minutes before igniting them. The heat generated by large-scale carcass burning operations is intense enough to cause metal pipes to bend (Fig. 4.12 (D)). Therefore, construct a sturdy carcass support surface so that it does not collapse into the fire.

During dry weather, burning carcasses in a pit surrounded by a vegetation-free area is more desirable than above-ground burning. In either situation, piling too many carcasses on the fire at once is a common mistake; burn carcasses one layer at a time (Fig. 4.13). When cinder blocks are used to support burning platforms, the length of the platform should be extended to keep the blocks out of direct heat or they will soon crumble.

When burning is not feasible or needed, burial is often a suitable alternative. Select burial sites carefully with consideration given to ground-water circulation and drainage, and any potential for later carcass exposure. Sprinkle lime or fuel oil on carcasses to discourage uncovering by scavengers and cover the carcasses with at least 3 to 4 feet of soil.

Composting is commonly used for the disposal of some domestic animal carcasses, and it is a technique that can be adapted to wildlife situations. The requirements for composting carcasses include an impermeable surface on which to place composting piles, a roof or other means of controlling moisture in the piles, and raw materials to mix with carcasses to achieve the correct carbon to nitrogen ratio for optimal decomposition of carcasses (Fig. 4.14).

When the combination of animal species, cause of mortality, and local situation allow, carcasses may also be disposed of by an animal rendering plant, and in rare instances infected wildlife may be killed and processed for food. Both of these methods are sometimes used for domestic species and captive-reared wildlife, but conservation laws generally prohibit the processing of free-living wildlife (with the exception of fish) as a commercial food source within the United States. Judgments on the use of rendering and food processing as animal disposal methods should be made only by qualified disease control specialists.

To the extent possible, dispose of carcasses on-site to reduce the risk associated with transporting contaminated material. Regardless of whether burning, burial, or large-scale composting is used, earth-moving equipment is needed. The disease contingency plan should identify how and where bulldozers, backhoes, and similar equipment can be obtained.

Figure 4.11 Examples of portable incinerators used for disease control operations
Click Photo for full-page view(A) Garbage incinerator borrowed from state park to dispose of carcasses during Lake Andes duck plague die-off. Click Photo for full-page view(B) Locally designed and constructed incinerators in use during disease control operations. All of these are fueled with propane gas. Click Photo for full-page view(C) Locally designed and constructed incinerators in use during disease control operations. All of these are fueled with propane gas.


Figure 4.12 Examples of above-ground and in-trench methods for incineration of carcasses
Click Photo for full-page view(A) Portable grate the width of a pickup truck bed fashioned from metal pipes. Click Photo for full-page view(B) Simple grate suspended over pit into which carcass remains are placed for burial. Click Photo for full-page view(C) Major burning pit for large-scale operation-note surrounding area cleaned of vegetation for fire protection, the size and depth of pit, burning platform, rubber tires for fuel.
Click Photo for full-page view(D) Intensity of heat generated by fire resulting in the bending of support pipes of the burning platform and metal grate Click Photo for full-page view(E) Simple but sturdy above-ground structure of cinder blocks and steel grates elevated enough for fuel to be placed under the carcasses and for air to circulate upward. Click Photo for full-page view(F) Highly efficient above-ground burning platform constructed of a frame of used grader plates, wire mat platform and sheet metal heat deflector positioned at the rear of the platform.
Click Photo for full-page view(G) Highly efficient above-ground burning platform constructed of a frame of used grader plates, wire mat platform and sheet metal heat deflector positioned at the rear of the platform. Click Photo for full-page view(H) Sheet metal heat deflector positioned at the rear of the platform. Click Photo for full-page view(I) Proper application of fuel oil (never use gasoline) for carcass incineration. Note that length of applicator prevents flashback or wind shift from endangering person applying fuel.


Figure 4.13 Examples of correct and incorrect layering of carcasses for burning
Click Illustration for full-page view(A) Example of correct layering of carcasses for burning. Carcasses must be burned one layer at a time to prevent charred outer carcasses from from insulating inner carcasses from incineration. (Illustration by Randy Stothard Kampen) Click Illustration for full-page view(B) Example of incorrect layering of carcasses for burning. Carcasses must be burned one layer at a time to prevent charred outer carcasses from from insulating inner carcasses from incineration. (Illustration by Randy Stothard Kampen)


Figure 4.14 Example of a simple composting bin for waterfowl carcasses.
Click Illustration for full-page viewLitter (bedded manure from poultry houses is a good source), straw, and carcasses are added proportionally to achieve the appropriate moisture content and carbon to nitrogen ratio. (Modified from Rynk, 1992.)

Animal Relocation

It is often as necessary to deal with the live, apparently healthy population during disease control activities as it is to remove and dispose of animals dying from disease. Depending on individual circumstances, consider denying animal use of specific sites by dispersing animals from the problem area, concentrating and holding wildlife within a specific area, or trapping animals for sampling.

Scare devices such as propane exploders (Fig. 4.15 (A)) and cracker shells (Fig. 4.15 (B)) may be useful for keeping wildlife away from a toxin or infectious agent within a specific area. Hazing wildlife with airplanes, helicopters, airboats, snowmobiles, and other motorized equipment has also been successful for moving them away from disease problem areas. Conversely, wildlife can be concentrated in an area for euthanasia, and they can be lured to other areas by broadcasting and dumping large amounts of grain and other feed to prevent their movement to problem areas, by knocking down standing grain to make it more available to them, by providing water through pumping operations and diverting water flow, and by providing refuge by closing the area to hunting and other interactions between wildlife and humans (Fig. 4.16). Take care to assure that grain used for attracting wildlife is not moldy and does not contain dangerous concentrations of mycotoxins.

Food and water are also helpful in trapping wildlife for assessing disease control activities. When birds have been lured to a site, they may be captured by such means as drugs incorporated within feed, rocket nets, drop nets, walk-in and swim-in traps, or other means of preventing escape (Fig.4.17).

A timely response to disease outbreaks can be facilitated if such factors as need for special permits, area closures, possible involvement of endangered species, and water purchase can be anticipated and addressed before an urgent situation arises.

Because of the potential complexity of biological interactions in animal relocation, field managers should seek the advice of disease control specialists whenever possible before taking independent action. As a general rule, animal dispersal is not recommended when infectious disease is involved unless it can be assured that the population being dispersed will not infect other wildlife. Also, it is important that water manipulation not produce conditions favorable to development of botulism (Avian Botulism) or other disease problems.

Figure 4.15 Wildlife can be discouraged from use of areas by (A) propane exploders and that function by the ignition of propane gas within the "cannon" due to the striking of a flint at a timed interval. (B) Manual firing of cracker shells has also been used to successfully discourage wildlife use of areas.
Click Photo for full-page view(A) propane exploders that function by the ignition of propane gas within the "cannon" due to the striking of a flint at a timed interval. With the exception of placing the cannon and maintaining a fuel supply, this activity does not require the presence of personnel. Click Photo for full-page view(B) Manual firing of cracker shells has also been used to successfully discourage wildlife use of areas. These fireworks-like shells should only be fired through a break-open type shotgun so that the barrel can be checked between shots to assure that there are no obstructions remaining in the barrels. These shells should not be used where they can fall into dry vegetation because of fire hazard.


Figure 4.16 Closure of areas is often needed to assist disease control operations
Click Photo for full-page view(A) Sign used to close Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge during the duck plague die-off. Click Photo for full-page view(B) Sign used to delineate refuge area so that bird disturbance and movement was minimized during another South Dakota disease control operation


Figure 4.17 Various types of capture devices are useful for disease operations
Click Photo for full-page view(A) Rocket net being fired over Canada Geese.. Click Photo for full-page view(B) Snow geese captured by cannon nets. Click Photo for full-page view(C) Constructing a funnel trap to capture birds in a zoological park.
Click Photo for full-page view(D) Capturing birds with a funnel trap. Click Photo for full-page view(E) Capturing flightless Canada geese in a drive trap. Click Photo for full-page view(F) Capturing waterfowl in a large, baited funnel trap.
Click Photo for full-page view(G) Using drugged grain to capture birds in residential situations. When drugs are used, maintain close surveillance of the situation so that animals that become drugged can be promptly collected before they are seized by other animals or drown if they venture into the water before before the drug takes effect. Click Photo for full-page view(H) Maintain close surveillance of the situation so that animals that become drugged, such as the bird lying on it's back can be promptly collected before they are seized by other animals or drown if they venture into the water before before the drug takes effect.


The purpose of disinfection is to prevent the mechanical transmission of disease agents from one location to another by people, equipment, and supplies. Some viruses, bacteria, and other infectious agents have considerable environmental persistence. Disinfection of the local environment involved in a disease outbreak may be required to prevent recurrence of the disease when the site is used by other animals. Disinfection of a disease outbreak site should always be done under the direct guidance of disease control specialists.

Wash thoroughly the clothing worn during disease control (coveralls and clothes worn under protective raingear) before it is used again. Personnel should shower and shampoo their hair before leaving the site, if possible, but always before they go to other wildlife areas. Disinfect boots before entering vehicles when in contaminated areas, and disinfect all equipment to the extent possible before it is moved from the area (Fig. 4.18 (A) and (B)). Give special attention to the underside of vehicles (Fig. 4.18 (C) and (D)). Put motor vehicles through a car wash before moving them to other areas, and wash and clean boats and all-terrain vehicles before they leave the area. Large volume tanks and pumps that can be operated from mobile units such as trucks (Fig. 4.19) and boats are especially useful for holding and dispensing disinfectant.

Disinfection procedures require a suitable disinfectant, containers for that disinfectant once it has been diluted to appropriate strength, and a way of applying the disinfectant. Commercial disinfectants are available from farm supply stores and veterinarians. Refuge managers and other field managers should consider keeping a supply of disinfectant for general use. Chlorine bleach is a highly suitable disinfectant and it is available at most grocery stores. For general use, dilute one part chlorine bleach with 10 parts water. Use stronger concentrations of one part bleach to five parts water for disinfecting heavily contaminated areas.

Stiff bristle brushes, buckets, and containers that can be used for foot baths and pressure or hand sprayers that can be used to dispense the disinfectant are also needed. The station contingency disease plan should identify readily available sources of these supplies and equipment.

When the disease problem involves an infectious agent, personnel handling contaminated materials should refrain from working with similar species or those susceptible to the disease for at least 7 days following completion of their disease control activities. For example, a field manager involved in an intensive avian cholera disease control operation on Monday should not band waterfowl in that refuge or elsewhere until Tuesday of the next week.

Figure 4.18 Equipment and personnel should be disinfected to the extent possible before leaving disease operation areas.
Click Photo for full-page view(A) Initial disinfection procedures should take place well within the contaminated area Click Photo for full-page view(B) Boots and other items in contact with the ground should receive a second application of disinfection at the point where entry is made into the "clean area," as is being done at the location where the specimen chest is being transferred.
Click Photo for full-page view(C) Various types of spray units can be used to apply disinfectant to the underside of vehicles. Click Photo for full-page view(D) Tires and wheel wells are the primary areas of concern as they may contain contaminated soil or animal fecal material from the disease area.


Figure 4.19
Click Photo for full-page view(A) Portable tank and pump mounted on a truck bed for dispersing disinfection during duck plague control operation Click Photo for full-page view(B) Application of that disinfectant to structure used to house birds. The long length of hose on this unit allowed all areas of major bird use to be reached from service and perimeter roads.


Labor-intensive operations such as carcass removal and disposal sometimes require more personnel than are usually employed on an area. In some instances, specialized help such as low level aircraft flights for surveillance may be needed. The use of nonstation personnel for routine operations has a potential educational value. For example, the use of local sportsmen clubs to help with carcass collections during a major lead poisoning die-off has been highly effective in changing negative attitudes towards nontoxic shot use.

Sportsmen clubs; retriever clubs; biology and wildlife classes at local universities and colleges; local chapters of conservation organizations such as the Audubon Society; the active military and National Guard, who also may provide valuable technical assistance; and similar groups have all provided volunteer assistance in combating disease problems at various times and places. Sound judgment must be exercised in the selection and utilization of volunteers because of legal liability in case of an accident. Contingency plans should list groups and organizations and contact persons for each group, their telephone numbers, and an approximation of the work force and times of its availability (e.g., weekends only or Wednesday only). For technical assistance, list the specific type of personnel needed, such as bulldozer operator or helicopter pilot.

In addition to preparing a station contingency plan, wildlife personnel should become familiar with the other phases of disease control operations. Table 4.1 provides a descriptive outline of these phases. Especially relevant to field managers are the equipment and supply needs identified under the Disease Response Section of Table 4.3.

Response Modifications

Disease control operations can be seriously undermined without current assessment of wildlife morbidity and mortality and the cause of disease problems. When infectious or highly toxic agents are involved, early detection of disease problems is critical to preventing the problem from becoming widespread. Also, failure to accurately assess the cause of the die-off can result in control actions actually contributing to the magnitude of losses and spread of the problem. Different types of disease problems require different types of response. Do not assume that the current die-off is due to the same cause as previous die-offs that have occurred on the area or that only one disease agent is responsible. It is not uncommon for two or more causes of wildlife mortality to occur simultaneously in an area. Control of these different diseases may require opposite types of actions, thereby requiring that a more comprehensive strategy be developed for the disease control operation.

Refuge managers and other field biologists greatly influence the effectiveness of disease control operations by their responsiveness, knowledge of the local situation, how well they are prepared, the flexibility they maintain, their resourcefulness, and when possible, their ability to obtain appropriate technical assistance and training for combating disease problems. Timely and properly carried-out disease control activities can significantly reduce the magnitude of wildlife losses that might otherwise occur. When carrying out control activities, always consider the safety of the personnel involved.

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Supplementary Reading

  • Friend, M., 1995, Disease considerations for waterfowl managers in Whitman, W. R., and others, eds., Waterfowl Habitat Restoration Enhancement and Management in the Atlantic Flyway (3): Dover, Del., Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, p. J24–J117.
  • Roffe, T.J., Friend, M., Locke, L.N., Evaluation of causes of wildlife mortality, in Bookout, T. A., editor, 1994, Research and management techniques for wildlife and habitats, Fifth,ed.,: Bethesda, Md., The Wildlife Society, p. 324–348
  • Rynk, R., ed., 1992, On-farm composting handbook: Ithaca, N.Y., Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service, 186 p.
  • Wobeser, G. A., 1994, Investigation and management of disease in wild animals: New York, N.Y., Plenum Press, 265 p.

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Table 4.1 - Outline of disease control operations.

I. Planning
A. Identify Needs
Sources of additional personnel to help during disease emergencies. Potentially, these include:
  1. State and federal agencies
  2. Active military and National Guard
  3. Private conservation agencies
  4. Local sportsmen clubs
  5. Local universities
Sources and availability of equipment and supplies for disease control operations See Appendix C
Special needs
  1. Burning permits
  2. Endangered species consultations
  3. Lodging and meal facilities for work crews
  4. Ability to attract and hold birds in site-specific areas by providing food, water, refuge, or other means
  5. Ability to deny bird use of specific areas by scaring devices and other means
  6. Ability to capture birds for sampling, immunization, or other needs
B. Record Biological Information
  1. Daily and seasonal bird movement patterns within the general area
  2. Migration patterns and population peaks for major and endangered species
  3. Past history of diseases
C. Prepare Contingency Plan
See Tables 4.2 and 4.3
II. Initial Response
A. Identify Problems
1. Obtain diagnosis by submitting carcasses to a qualified diagnostic laboratory as soon as mortality or morbidity is evident. (See Chapters 3 and 4 for shipping procedures)
2. Conduct field investigation to determine extent of problem (i.e., species, number of birds, and geographic area involved).
3. Identify special biological, political, or physical considerations associated with problem. Before proceeding further with II. B and C., seek the advice of a specialist.
B. Establish Control of Area
1. Close affected area, when warranted, to all but authorized personnel.  
2. Identify special work areas for disease control activities.
  1. Carcass disposal sites
  2. Laboratory investigations area
  3. Briefing area for news media and staff
  4. Vehicle parking
  5. Assembly areas for arriving workers
  6. Command post
3. Initiate carcass clean up, but do not dispose of carcasses without guidance from disease control specialists.  
C. Communications
Notify appropriate agency and nonagency personnel of die-off.
III. Disease Control
A. Response
Disease control actions are dictated by the type of disease, environmental factors, species involved, and other circumstances. Typically, actions associated with major die-offs require:
  1. Bringing personnel, equipment, and supplies on-site
  2. Organizing work force, briefing workers about the problem, and assigning duties
  3. Carcass pickup and disposal
  4. Monitoring cause of mortality to detect changes in the cause of the problem (die-offs often involve more than a single cause and different control actions may be required for these different causes)
  5. Decontamination of personnel and equipment
  6. News media briefing sessions and "show-me" tripsa
B. Management
1. Disease management activities often involve:
  1. population manipulation such as removal, controlled movement including relocation and local concentration of bird populations, and population dispersal.
  2. habitat manipulation to prevent, attract, or maintain bird use of an area.
2. Decontamination of the infected environment, such as:
  1. Chemical treatment of land, water, and structures
  2. Vegetation and water removal (desiccation) to allow air and sunlight (ultraviolet) to destroy microorganisms
  3. Controlled burning to remove vegetation and dispose of mechanical structures
IV. Surveillance
A. Monitoring
After disease control operations have ended, the area should be kept under surveillance for 10 to 30 days to watch for additional flare-ups.
B. Investigations
This stage is also an appropriate time to conduct follow-up investigations of factors that helped cause and sustain the problem, and to carry out bird population and environmental sampling to discern disease exposure patterns and environmental reservoirs of disease agents.
V. Analyses
Each disease control operation provides a learning experience. It is important to the success of future operations to evaluate what was done, the degree of success achieved, problems encountered, and what should have been done differently.
a Media briefing sessions and "show-me" trips should be conducted by personnel with comprehensive knowledge of the situation.

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Table 4.2 - Activity Equipment and Supplies
Activity A. Carcass Collection

1. Transportation of personnel

Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. All-terrain and four-wheel vehicles, snowmobiles
  2. Airboats, canoes, other boats
  3. Helicopter
  4. Waders, snowshoes

2. Transportation of carcasses

Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Large, heavy-duty plastic bags
  2. Plastic trash cans with lids
  3. Sleighs and trailers
  4. Trucks, boats
  5. Strapping tape and other means of securing closure of containers
Activity B. Carcass Disposal

1. Burial

Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Earth-moving equipment for digging trenches or pits (bulldozer, backhoe)
  2. Shovels
  3. Lime or fuel oil to spread on carcasses
  4. Any applicable permits

2. Incineration

Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Portable incinerators and fuel
  2. Local permanent incinerator
  3. Earth-moving equipment for digging trenches or pits (bulldozer, backhoe)
  4. Burning permits
  5. Shovels
  6. Metal grates and cinder blocks for building burning platforms
  7. Sheet metal or metal roofing for heat reflectors
  8. Fuel for burning carcasses (wood, coal, rubber tires, fuel oil, napalm)
  9. Fire suppression equipment
3. Composting
Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Composting bin made of pressure treated lumber
  2. Straw and manure to alternate with layers of dead birds
  3. Trucks to transport carcasses, straw, and manure
Activity C. Sanitation Procedures
1. Decontamination of environment and structures.
Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Chemical disinfectants and structures.
  2. Pumps and suction apparatus for drainage of water areas
  3. Buckets, brushes
  4. Spray application by aircraft, power systems mounted in trucks and boats, and hand-carried spray units

2. Protection of personnel and prevention of mechanical movement of disease agents to secondary locations by people and equipment.

Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Raingear, coveralls, rubber gloves, rubber foot gear, hats
  2. Spray units and chemical disinfectants
  3. Plastic bags for transportation of field clothes to laundry
  4. Brushes, buckets
  5. Disposable gloves, hats, coveralls, and foot coverings
Activity D. Field Communications
1. Field activities
Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Portable radios or cellular phones for communication between field personnel
  2. Radios in vehicles for communication between field units and between units and command post

2. Information activities

Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Word processor or typewriter for preparing briefing documents
  2. Maps, acetate, and other supplies for overlays depicting die-off and control activity information
  3. Telephone lines for communication with others
  4. Transportation for news media "show-me" trips
Activity E. Surveillance and Observation

1. Field activities

Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Aircraft and pilots certified for low-level flights (500 feet and below) for monitoring bird populations and environmental conditions
  2. Binoculars and spotting scopes

2. Office activities

Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Maps, acetate, and other supplies for tracking the progress of events and bird populations associated with die-off
  2. Telephone for contacting others to trace movement of migrant bird populations that might enter problem area or that have departed problem area
Activity F. Bird Population and Habitat Manipulation
1. Denying bird use of a specific area
Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Aircraft, boats, snowmobiles, and other motorized means of hazing bird populations
  2. Propane exploders
  3. Cracker shells, break-open shotguns, and protective face shield
  4. Audio systems and other scare devices
  5. Pumps for draining water or adding water to areas
2. Concentration and maintenance of birds in a specific area
Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Grain and other sources of food
  2. Pumps and water to provide habitat
  3. "No Hunting" and "Area Closed" signs to provide temporary refuge area
Activity G. Bird Sampling and Monitoring
1. Bird capture
Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Cannon nets and other capture equipment
  2. Grain and other baits to lure birds to capture site

2. Bird marking

Equipment and Supplies Required for Activity
  1. Visible marking devices such as paint, neck collars, and other devices
  2. Permanent marking devices such as leg bands
  3. Temporary marking devices such as radio transmitters

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Table 4.3 Station disease contingency plan - CONTENTS.
I. Size, configuration, and other important characteristics of station area conveyed with help of tables, maps, photographs, station brochures, public use maps, and similar documents
II. Record of previous disease outbreaks, including nature of disease, species involved, magnitude of die-off, and season and year (Table 4.4)
Disease Surveillance
I. Brief outline of current surveillance activities on station and adjacent areas - State, Federal, and private
II. Identify disease reporting and notification procedures (names, titles, organization, and telephone numbers of persons to be contacted)
Disease Response
I. Logistical Considerations
A. Personnel sources (telephone numbers, addresses, names of contact persons)
  1. Local, State, and Federal agencies (military, university)
  2. Sportsman clubs and volunteers
B. Equipment (types and numbers on-site, and sources off-site)
  1. Vehicles (conventional and all-terrain)
  2. Aircraft (fixed-wing and rotary)
  3. Earth-moving equipment (backhoe, bulldozer)
  4. Pumps (for flooding or draining marshes)
  5. Boats (motor, self-propelled, air boats)
  6. Radios (portable and fixed); during nonfire seasons the Boise Interagency Fire Center, 3905 Vista Avenue, Boise, Idaho 83704, is a potential source for obtaining assistance for very large communication needs
  7. Incinerators
  8. Composting bins
  9. Decontamination units (sprayers)
  10. Scaring devices (propane exploders, sirens)
  11. Freezers
  12. Portable toilets (construction site type)
C. Supply sources (identify sources, addresses, and telephone numbers of local or closest sources)
  1. Disinfectants and chemicals
  2. Plastic bags
  3. Fuel for carcass burning
  4. Field clothes (gloves, rainwear, coveralls, boots)
  5. Plastic trash barrels, tubs, scrub brushes
  6. Scaring devices (cracker shells, fireworks); provide contact telephone number and address for local animal damage control office
  7. Dry ice and liquid nitrogen
  8. Grain and other wildlife foods
  9. Nearest shipping address for air and ground receipt of goods and supplies
D. Lodging for temporary personnel assigned to disease control operation
E. Food
  1. On-site capabilities
  2. Off-site capabilities (give consideration to early and late hours)
F. Identify working areas (diagrams are sufficient; limited narrative may also be required; Fig. 4.2) 1. Clean areas
  1. command post (must have adequate telephones)
  2. news media briefing room
  3. parking
  4. eating areas
  5. staff assembly and rest areas
  6. equipment and supply receipt
  7. other

2. Transition areas

  1. decontamination of personnel
  2. decontamination of equipment

3. Contaminated areas

  1. a. carcass disposal
  2. b. laboratory investigations
  3. c. animal holding
II. Biological considerations (Provide data in charts, figures, photographs, maps, tables)
A. Species and population data Major species (identify by season of presence, relative abundance, and peak population periods)
B. Bird movement patterns (Figs. 4.3 through 4.5)
  1. Daily
  2. Seasonal
  3. Production and dispersal patterns
C. Weather patterns
  1. Freeze-up and ice-out periods
  2. Major periods of precipitation and drought
  3. Other (temperature profiles, major periods of haze, fog, and high winds)
D. Habitat and population manipulation potential
  1. Methods (water manipulation capability, feeding)
  2. Anticipated population response to habitat (movement, concentration, dispersal)
III. Communications (Provide lists of principal local and regional contact personnel and telephone numbers)
A. State agencies
  1. Conservation
  2. Agriculture
  3. Health Department
  4. University diagnostic laboratories
B. Federal agencies
  1. Environmental Protection Agency
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture
  3. Public Health Service
C. Other organizations
  1. Cooperating organizations (e.g., area representatives of Aubudon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited)
  2. Local sportsman clubs
  3. Private wildlife area managers
  4. Local game breeder organizations
  5. Local domestic animal husbandry and production operations
D. Media
  1. Television
  2. Radio
  3. Newspapers
Supplemental Information
  1. Location of nearby laboratories (hospital, universities, county and state facilities)
  2. Federal and state permit status for biological collections
  3. Burning permits
  4. Regulatory requirements
  5. Background information (e.g., water sources, water-quality data, potential sources of disease transmission between wildlife and domestic bird concentrations)
  6. Identification and location of adjacent or nearby wildlife refuges, management areas, and private reserves
  7. Identification of unusual or politically sensitive aspects of area


Table 4.4 Example of a disease outbreak summary, Mosquito Flat National Wildlife Refuge.a
Disease Date Location Principal species involved Estimated population at riskb Carcass count Estimated total Control efforts Diagnostic laboratory
Unknown Aug-Oct 1972 Unit 6 and Yellowleg Flat on adjacent State land
  • Northern pintail
  • Teal
5,000 1,500 3,000 None None
Lead poisoning April 1980 Mud Lake
  • Redhead
  • Tundra swan
-- 75 200 None State diagnostic laboratory
Lead poisoning Dec 1983 Mud Lake
  • Mallard
  • Canada goose
10,000 -- 150 Blinds were relocated in 1984 Veterinary Science Dept., State college
Unknown Jan 1983 Mud Lake
  • Muskrat
3,000 100 500 None Veterinary Science Dept., State college
Avian botulism Jul-Sep 1985 Units 3,4,5 25,000 2,200 10,000 Drained Unit 4, flooded 3 and 5 National Wildlife Health Center

a The material in this table is fictitious and for illustration only.
b Number of birds using the area involved in the die-off.

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