Diseases / List of Physical / Traumatic Diseases / Disease description:

Electrocution in Waterfowl, Lagomorphs, Ferrets and Cranes

Cranes killed by lighning strike.  Click here for full-page view with caption. Crane killed by lighning strike.  Click here for full-page view with caption.

INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL INFORMATION

CLINICAL CHARACTERISTICS & PATHOLOGY

INVESTIGATION & DIAGNOSIS

TREATMENT & CONTROL

SUSCEPTIBILITY & TRANSMISSION

ENVIRONMENT & GEOGRAPHY

 

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General and References

Disease Summary

WATERFOWL Death, electro-coagulation injury or limb paralysis; in waterfowl is usually associated with power-line collisions.

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Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Electrical injury
  • Electrical trauma
  • Electrical burns
  • Wire Strike - see also: Impact Injury

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Disease Type

 Physical / Traumatic

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Infectious/Non-Infectious Agent associated with the Disease

In waterfowl: Electricity sources, primarily overhead power lines. Tissues are damaged directly and via burns. Electrocution may cause apnoea (cessation of respiration) and ventricular fibrillation (B20.14.w11). Also reported from lightning (B126).

In lagomorphs: For house rabbits, mainly electrical cables, which rabbits like to chew. (B603.1.w1, J60.6.w1)

In ferrets: The most common cause of electrical burns in ferrets is through chewing of electrical wires. (J213.7.w5)

In cranes: power lines, lightning.

Infective "Taxa"

 

Non-infective agents

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Physical agents

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References

Disease Author

Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5), Bridget Fry BSc, RVN (V.w143)
Click image for main Reference Section

Major References / Reviews

Code and Title List

B9.6.w1, B20.14.w11, B36.50.w50, B37.x.w1, B116.31.w4, B126
J3.121.w2
J7.14.w1, J7.26.w2
J48.69.w2
P8.3.w1
V.w2

Lagomorphs
B603.1.w1, J60.6.w1

Ferrets
J213.7.w5

Cranes
J1.47.w5, J178.98.w1
P87.8.w5, P87.8.w10, P87.11.w2, P87.11.w8

Other References

Code and Title List

J7.42.w2, J7.43.w2, J7.50.w1, J36.44.w1

Cranes
D449

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Clinical Characteristics and Pathology

Detailed Clinical and Pathological Characteristics

General

Death due to cardiac arrest, or electrical burns, necrosis and often traumatic injuries due to falling. (B116.31.w4)

Clinical Characteristics

  • Death from cardiac arrest (due to ventricular fibrillation), traumatic injuries due to falling following muscle convulsion or due to becoming unconscious, and electrical burns with necrosis and (with time) Myiasis. (B116.31.w4)
    • Traumatic shock.
    • Fractures, particularly spinal fractures.
    • Small burns in the plumage and more rarely, wide areas of scorching.
    • Small burns where current entered and exited. Later, large areas of the limbs may become necrotic (where current flowed through).
    • Myiasis.

    (B116.31.w4)

WATERFOWL May affect wingtip or areas of the body, sometimes extensive. May be fatal.
  • Sudden death (ventricular fibrillation).
  • Wounds, often linear, with flesh coagulated or charred, smell of burning. Can be extensive, but may be minimal visible injury, e.g. curled or burnt feathers, linear skin wound as in other power-line injuries, shallow necrosis muscle underlying skin at point of impact.
  • Cold oedematous areas e.g. distal wing, ventral abdomen, thigh muscles: slough later. N.B. Sloughing may not be visible initially: keep power-line collision victims under observation for at least five days.
  • Paralysis of limb or limbs – may be solitary clinical sign.
  • Feathers may be curled, singed or burnt.

N.B. may also be signs of Impact Injury, e.g. due to falling after being electrocuted.

(J7.14.w1, J7.26.w2, J3.121.w2, B20.14.w11, B37.x.w1, B116.31.w4)

CRANES
  • Death, stunning, burns. (J1.47.w5, P87.11.w8)
LAGOMORPHS
  • Collapse. (B603.1.w1)
  • Sudden death due to cardiogenic shock. (B603.1.w1, J60.6.w1)
FERRETS
  • Deep wounds may be present from electrical burns. (J213.7.w5)
  • Burns usually occur in the mouth. (J213.7.w5) 
  • Infection may develop following thrombosis and the release of vasoactive substances. (J213.7.w5)
  • Respiratory paralysis can occur, which may lead to death. (J213.7.w5)
  • Ventricular fibrillation, which may cause death. (J213.7.w5)
  • Noise may be noted on thoracic auscultation (possibly pulmonary oedema). (J213.7.w5) 

Incubation

Acute. (B116.31.w4)
WATERFOWL Acute, although signs of damage (necrosis and sloughing) may take several days to appear (B37.x.w1, P8.3.w1).
CRANES Acute.
LAGOMORPHS --
FERRETS --

Mortality / Morbidity

Variable, but can be high; in some areas electrocution is recognised as a major mortality factor for some species of wild birds. (B116.31.w4)
WATERFOWL Mortality of 30% of one flock of mute swans Cygnus olor reported over a two month period from power line collisions (some may have been impact-injury deaths) (J7.14.w1).
CRANES --
LAGOMORPHS --
FERRETS Can be fatal. (J213.7.w5)

Pathology

 
WATERFOWL
  • May be shallow (e.g. 1mm deep) muscle necrosis underlying skin wounds, but area of tissue damage can be extensive with sloughing of skin and underlying muscle after several days.
  • Coagulation of internal organs (variable).
  • Wingtip: tissue becomes necrotic and gangrenous.
  • N.B. may also be associated traumatic injuries (see: Impact Injury).

(J3.121.w2, P8.3.w1, B37.x.w1, B116.31.w4)

CRANES
  • In wild Grus grus - Common crane in Germany, burn marks on the feathers and the skin. [2011] (J1.47.w5)
  • In Grus americana - Whooping crane considered to have been struck by lightning during a severe thunderstorm, in the kidneys, peripheral nerves, airsac membranes and myocardium, "coagulation necrosis and other histologic changes" compatible with electrocution (in some of the birds, sufficiently severe as to be fatal, although cause of death appeared to be drowning of the stunned cranes (aspiration of seawater). (P87.11.w8)
LAGOMORPHS
  • There may be oral/facial burns. (B603.1.w1)
  • Pulmonary oedema may be present. (B603.1.w1)
FERRETS --

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Human Health Considerations

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Susceptibility / Transmission

General information on Susceptibility / Transmission

  • Large free-flying birds may be more prone to electrocution from power lines than smaller species as they are more likely to contact both a live and a ground wire. Additionally, raptors attracted to tall perches may be more at risk. (B36.50.w50)
  • In captive animals, electrocution may occur from electrical heaters and other electrical appliances; AC power is more likely to cause damage than DC power. (B20.14.w11)
WATERFOWL
  • Swans, which have large wing-spans and are therefore more prone to touch both a live wire and an earth point, are particularly susceptible. They are also less manoeuvrable than small species. Birds encumbered by e.g. soil sticking to the feet may be more prone to hitting power lines while flying from feeding areas (J7.26.w2, B9.6.w1, B36.50.w50, B37.x.w1).
CRANES
  • In a study of resident Grus americana - Whooping cranes in Florida, out of 44 power line interactions, involving 39 cranes, eight were electrocutions; all electrocutions involved male cranes (three chicks, three subadults, two adults). (P87.11.w2)
LAGOMORPHS
  • Indoor rabbits with access to electrical cables, which they tend to chew, striping off the plastic insulation, are known to be at risk of electrocution. (B603.1.w1, J60.6.w1)
FERRETS
  • The most common cause of electrical burns in ferrets is through chewing of electrical wires. (J213.7.w5)

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Disease has been reported in either the wild or in captivity in:

[N.B. Miscellaneous / Traumatic Diseases tend to be under-reported and the majority are likely to affect all waterfowl species, given exposure to the related disease agents/factors.]
  • Ducks hit by lightning (B126).
  • Mute Swan Cygnus olor (J7.14.w1, B9.6.w1).
  • Canada goose Branta canadensis (J3.121.w2).
  • Mute swans Cygnus olor and/or Bewick's swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii and/or Whooper swans Cygnus cygnus colliding with power lines at the Ouse Washes, UK: singeing sometimes evident (J7.26.w2).
  • Power line collisions (electrocution and/or trauma), mute swans in UK (J7.42.w2).
  • Power line collisions (electrocution and/or trauma), mute swans Cygnus olor and/or Bewick's swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii in UK (J7.43.w2).
  • Power line collisions (electrocution and/or trauma), mute swans in UK (J7.50.w1).
  • Swans (Mute swan Cygnus olor or Whooper swan Cygnus cygnus) in Scotland: power line collisions, with singeing (J36.44.w1).
  • Power line collisions (electrocution and/or trauma), mallard Anas platyrhynchos and 'dabbling ducks' Anas spp. in Spain (J48.69.w2).
  • Canada geese Branta canadensis striking power lines (trauma or electrocution not distinguished) in the UK (P12.w10[Full]).
Lagomorphs
Ferrets
Cranes
  • In April 1978, 90 Grus canadensis - Sandhill cranes were thought to have been killed by lightning in Nebraska. USA. (J40.52.w2)
  • Grus antigone - Sarus cranes have been found dead along the routes of high-tension power lines in India [it is not possible to say whether impact injury or electrocution was the cause of death, from the data provided, although some at least were considered to be electrocution]. [2001](J178.98.w1)
  • Electrocution was diagnosed as the cause of death in 10/167 (6.0%) wild Grus grus - Common crane in Germany, 1998-2008. [2011] (J1.47.w5)
  • In a study of resident Grus americana - Whooping cranes in Florida, out of 44 power line interactions, involving 39 cranes, eight were electrocutions; all electrocutions involved male cranes (three chicks, three subadults, two adults). (P87.11.w2)
  • In Florida, five Grus americana - Whooping cranes died from electrocution/impact after flying into power lines; two incidents each involving a single bird occurred over the same an open field in two different years and it was determined that the conducting and ground wires were too close together, allowing the cranes to simultaneously touch live and ground wires, shorting out the circuit and causing electrocution of the bird. A group of three birds which collided with lines in the dark may have been disturbed from their roost and failed to see the power lines. (P87.8.w5)
  • In Florida, two Grus canadensis - Sandhill cranes appeared to have been electrocuted by lightening; they were found by a barbed wire fence and necropsy suggested electrocution. (P87.8.w5)
  • A Grus canadensis - Sandhill crane in Florida was electrocuted after becoming entangled in an electric fence. (P87.8.w5)
  • A released Grus canadensis - Sandhill crane was found dead by a 110V electric fence in Colorado  and was thought to have been electrocuted. (P87.8.w10)
  • Grus americana - Whooping cranes penned overnight during their first, microlight guided migration were considered to have been struck by lightning during a severe thunderstorm; in some of the birds, lesions were sufficiently severe as to be fatal, although cause of death appeared to be drowning of the stunned cranes (aspiration of seawater). (P87.11.w8)
  • In the UK, a released Grus grus - Common crane died due to fatal electrocution from hitting power lines. (D449)

Host Species List

Waterfowl

Cranes

Lagomorphs

Mustelids

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Disease has been specifically reported in Free-ranging populations of:

  • Ducks hit by lightning (B126).
  • Mute Swan Cygnus olor (J7.14.w1, B9.6.w1).
  • Canada goose Branta canadensis (J3.121.w2).
  • Mute swans Cygnus olor and/or Bewick's swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii and/or Whooper swans Cygnus cygnus colliding with power lines at the Ouse Washes, UK: singing sometimes evident (J7.26.w2).
  • Power line collisions (electrocution and/or trauma), mute swans in UK (J7.42.w2).
  • Power line collisions (electrocution and/or trauma), mute swans Cygnus olor and/or Bewick's swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii in UK (J7.43.w2).
  • Power line collisions (electrocution and/or trauma), mute swans in UK (J7.50.w1).
  • Swans (Mute swan Cygnus olor or Whooper swan Cygnus cygnus) in Scotland: power line collisions, with singeing (J36.44.w1).
  • Power line collisions (electrocution and/or trauma), mallard Anas platyrhynchos and 'dabbling ducks' Anas spp. in Spain (J48.69.w2).
  • Canada geese Branta canadensis striking power lines (trauma or electrocution not distinguished) in the UK (P12.w10[Full]).
Cranes
  • In April 1978, 90 Grus canadensis - Sandhill cranes were thought to have been killed by lightning in Nebraska. USA. (J40.52.w2)
  • Grus antigone - Sarus cranes have been found dead along the routes of high-tension power lines in India [it is not possible to say whether impact injury or electrocution was the cause of death, from the data provided, although some at least were considered to be electrocution]. [2001](J178.98.w1)
  • Electrocution was diagnosed as the cause of death in 10/167 (6.0%) wild Grus grus - Common crane in Germany, 1998-2008. [2011] (J1.47.w5)
  • In a study of resident Grus americana - Whooping cranes in Florida, out of 44 power line interactions, involving 39 cranes, eight were electrocutions; all electrocutions involved male cranes (three chicks, three subadults, two adults). (P87.11.w2)
  • In Florida, five Grus americana - Whooping cranes died from electrocution/impact after flying into power lines; two incidents each involving a single bird occurred over the same an open field in two different years and it was determined that the conducting and ground wires were too close together, allowing the cranes to simultaneously touch live and ground wires, shorting out the circuit and causing electrocution of the bird. A group of three birds which collided with lines in the dark may have been disturbed from their roost and failed to see the power lines. (P87.8.w5)
  • In Florida, two Grus canadensis - Sandhill cranes appeared to have been electrocuted by lightening; they were found by a barbed wire fence and necropsy suggested electrocution. (P87.8.w5)
  • A sandhill crane in Florida was electrocuted after becoming entangled in an electric fence. (P87.8.w5)

Host Species List

Waterfowl

Cranes

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Environment/Geography

General Information on Environmental Factors/Events and Seasonality

Presence of power lines, particularly near feeding and roosting areas and running across rivers or canals. May be more prevalent in wet weather as wet feathers are more likely to conduct electricity, in foggy weather when birds are circling to find landing sites and in frosty weather when more soil may adhere to feet (J7.14.w1, J7.26.w2, B9.6.w1, B36.50.w50, B37.x.w1).

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Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded

UK( J7.26.w2, J36.44.w1), Spain (J48.69.w2), USA (J40.52.w2), Germany (J1.47.w5), India. (J178.98.w1)

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Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded in Free-ranging populations

UK (J7.26.w2, J36.44.w1), Spain (J48.69.w2), USA (J40.52.w2), Germany (J1.47.w5), India. (J178.98.w1)

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General Investigation / Diagnosis

General Information on Investigation / Diagnosis

  • History, e.g. finding of casualties under power lines or power poles. (B20.14.w11, B36.50.w50, B116.31.w4)
  • Clinical lesions including small burns or more extensive scorch marks in plumage, small burns or extensive areas of necrosis. (B20.14.w11, B116.31.w4)
  • Burn marks, ranging from small to extensive; if the plumage of electrocuted birds catches on fire, there may be charring of the whole carcass. Absence of other causes of death. (B36.50.w50)
WATERFOWL
  • History: bird found under power line. Record of power fluctuation at time of supposed collision.
  • In fatal cases: signs of burning, absence of pathology indicating other causes of death.
  • In non-fatal burns: burning on surface, coagulation injury/necrosis.

(J3.121.w2, J7.14.w1, B20.14.w11, B36.50.w50)

CRANES
  • Necropsy findings. (P87.8.w5)
  • Burn marks on the feathers and the skin. [2011] (J1.47.w5)
  • Lesions of "coagulation necrosis and other histologic changes" compatible with electrocution. (P87.11.w8)
LAGOMORPHS --
FERRETS
  • Presence of deep burn wounds. (J213.7.w5)
  • Burns usually occur in the mouth. (J213.7.w5) 
Related Techniques
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Similar Diseases (Differential Diagnosis)

For birds found under or near power lines/poles, the main differential diagnosis is Impact Injury. The presence of burns and coagulation necrosis suggests electrocution; lack of obvious impact injuries would also tend to suggest electrocution in such cases (but impact injuries may also be present).  (B20.14.w11, B36.50.w50, B116.31.w4)
WATERFOWL Physical trauma from wire strike (Impact Injury).
CRANES For cranes found under or near power lines, the main differential diagnosis is Impact Injury.
LAGOMORPHS --
FERRETS

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Treatment and Control

Specific Medical Treatment

--
WATERFOWL --
LAGOMORPHS --
FERRETS --
Related Techniques
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General Nursing and Surgical Techniques

  • Immediate; carefully remove from the source of the electricity, then use cardiac massage/artificial respiration as appropriate. (B20.14.w11)
  • Standard emergency treatment including rehydration.
  • Treatment of burns with povidone iodine or 1% silver sulphadiazine in a water-soluble cream.
    • Cold water compresses can be useful to reduce pain. (B20.14.w11)
    • Consider use of adhesive drapes to reduce infection risk. (B20.14.w11)
  • Systemic antibiotics, as appropriate.
  • Corticosteroids as appropriate to treat shock.
  • Analgesics as appropriate to relieve pain.

(B20.14.w11, B116.31.w4)

WATERFOWL
  • Wingtip injury: amputate (see: Partial Wing Amputation - Adult Birds).
  • Paralyzed limb: amputate (unlikely to recover movement) (see: Wing Amputation - Adult Birds).
  • Body: If bird is generally bright and eating and ‘well in itself’, treatment of even extensive areas of slough can be successful. Trim off necrotic tissue. Dress wound with e.g. Intrasite or set honey covered with pads (or pads soaked in honey), held in place with e.g. top (body section) of a pair of tights (pantyhose). Clean and re-dress daily, later reduce to every other day, then every 3-4 days. As epithelialization occurs, continue to clean out pockets of debris. Antibiotic cover: enrofloxacin (Baytril) and amoxycillin (Clamoxyl) daily. Pain relief: carprofen (Zenocarp, C-vet) 4mg/kg daily in initial phase will assist. Keep with mate if possible. Allow daily access to clean pond to swim in daily if possible (e.g. directly before changing dressing) (P8.3.w1, V.w2).
CRANES Supportive treatment as indicated above: fluid therapy, corticosteroids and analgesics as appropriate to treat shock and pain. Treatment of burns and antibiotic cover against infection. (V.w5)
LAGOMORPHS --
FERRETS
  • Treatment of the wounds should wait until the full extent of the injuries are known. (J213.7.w5)
  • Small wounds can heal by secondary intension and larger wounds may need surgical intervention. (J213.7.w5)
  • See: Treatment and Care - Wound management
Related Techniques
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Preventative Measures

Vaccination --
Prophylactic Treatment --
Related Techniques
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Environmental and Population Control Measures

General Environment Changes, Cleaning and Disinfection

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WATERFOWL
  • Avoid siting power lines on known flight paths, increase visibility of power lines to birds by using markers (e.g. large plastic spheres) on wires.

(J48.69.w2, B20.14.w11, B37.x.w1).

CRANES

For free-living cranes:

  • Increase visibility of power lines to birds. (P87.4.w6, P87.10.w9)
    • In Hokkaido, Japan, mortality of Grus japonensis - Red-crowned crane due to power line strikes was considerably reduced by fitting yellow plastic tubes to the power lines. [1983](P92.1.w6)
    • Cranes are known to react more to marked than to unmarked lines, rising up to cross over the lines sooner, and less cranes are found dead under marked than unmarked spans. (P87.10.w9)
  • Avoid situating transmission lines within 2 km of traditional roost or feeding sites. [1985](P87.4.w6)
  • Avoid situation of transmission or distribution lines between adjacent heavily-used areas such as roosting and feeding sites. [1985](P87.4.w6)
  • Educate the public to reduce flushing of cranes. [1985](P87.4.w6)
  • Consider burying lines in some circumstances. [1985](P87.4.w6)
LAGOMORPHS --
FERRETS Ensure ferrets cannot reach electrical wires, which they are likely to chew. (B651.2.w2, B631.17.w17, J213.7.w5)
Population Control Measures --
WATERFOWL --
CRANES  
LAGOMORPHS --
FERRETS --
Isolation, Quarantine and Screening --
WATERFOWL --
CRANES  
LAGOMORPHS --
FERRETS --
Related Techniques
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