Wildlife carcasses used for education and science
Cody – “Grizzly bears die for several different reasons,” says Wyoming Game & Fish Department (G&F) Bear Management Program Supervisor, Mark Bruscino, in the Cody Regional G&F Office.
“They die from being hit by a vehicle, agency management removal of problem animals, or animals that are sick or injured, removals by the public in self-defense situations and illegal killing,” says Bruscino. “We have several animals in each category each year, including six to eight agency removals a year.”
When the animal’s body parts are salvageable, the G&F donates them to public entities for education or science.
“Usually it’s just the hide and/or skull, but occasionally they request the entire skeleton. We donate parts to public institutions in and outside of Wyoming, not to private individuals. Recently, we sent one to a children’s science center in Ohio, and we have sent them to Indian tribes that request them for ceremonial purposes,” comments Bruscino.
“When bears were listed as endangered, under the Endangered Species Act, federal regulations required (their salvageable parts) be donated to science or education causes. Since bears were delisted a year ago last April, the G&F has continued to use that standard, as we feel that’s the best use of those parts,” says Bruscino.
The receiving public entity must pay the taxidermy fee and get an interstate game tag, which is then attached to carcass part for tracking purposes.
A prime example of an animal donated for educational purposes is bear #212, nicknamed “Little Wahb,” taken near Meeteetse in 2000. The bear was lethally removed, and the hide and skull donated to the local Meeteetse Museum.
“That was the first bear captured in years in the Meeteetse area, and we decided to give it to the local museum. Local people contributed to pay for mounting that bear, so it could be enjoyed by locals and tourists alike,” says Bruscino.
The name Little Wahb came from the children’s book, Biography of a Grizzly by Earnest Thompson Seaton. Published around 1900, the book’s setting was along the Greybull River and about a grizzly who avenged the death of his mother and siblings who died at the hand of Colonel Pickett. Then local Game Warden, Jerry Longobardi, gave the bear this nickname, which the locals adopted.
“I weighed him wrong,” says Bruscino. “I take full responsibility for that. He was huge, and bottomed out a 500-pound scale, so we used two scales and added the weights. He came out at 800 pounds. Later, I found out that’s not the correct way to do it, so we don’t have an exact accurate weight on him, but he probably weighed between 600 – 800 pounds.” He adds, “The bear never caused any problem around people. But, he had figured out that livestock was a good source of food.”
Salvageable wildlife parts are sometimes donated to state veterinary labs and university research centers around the country for research. “Recently we provided brains to a neurophysiologist who is mapping a bear’s brain. He told me he’s never seen an animal with such a sophisticated sense of smell.”
Bruscino adds, “We don’t have specific protocol for poached specimens. There was a case where two Big Horn Sheep were poached on the North Fork of the Shoshone River on Christmas Eve. The Buffalo Bill Historical Center requested those mounts, and we donated them.”
Mike Jimenez, Wyoming Wolf Project Leader for the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), says wolves that continually prey on livestock are lethally removed, usually by shooting or trapping. There is also a waiting list of organizations that want these skulls, hides and other parts.
“If it’s fall or wintertime, and the hides are good, they are salvaged. During the summertime, wolves have thin coats, and that along with the heat usually makes the hides not worth salvaging,” says Jimenez. “Most hides and skulls go to museums, universities, and public schools. Some go to other agencies.”
The ESA dictates how the carcasses of listed animals can be handled. “We don’t give these donations to individuals, they have to go to public institutions,” comments Jimenez.
“A public school in Green River, Wyoming got one wolf hide, and they had it mounted and use it as their mascot,” comments Jimenez.
He says wolf body parts are also sometimes used for scientific study. “There are a number of research projects, including a study of the intestinal tracks of wolves to see what poisons they may be picking up, and one to see if wolves are accumulating lead by scavenging gut piles of animals that have been shot.”
To place your public institution on the G&F or FWS waiting list, please contact Mark Bruscino at 307-527-7125 or Mike Jimenez at 307-330-5631.