Raptors Poisoned by Euthanasia Drugs in Three Recent Cases

Press release from the Department of Fish and Wildlife:

A bald eagle, treated by Critter Creek Wildlife Station for pentobarbital poisoning, about to be released.

A bald eagle, treated by Critter Creek Wildlife Station for pentobarbital poisoning, about to be released.


The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has confirmed three recent incidents of pentobarbital poisoning in raptors and would like to remind veterinarians and the public about proper handling of euthanized companion animals, horses, livestock and poultry to prevent further incidents. Any animal that has been chemically euthanized must be cremated or buried at least three to four feet deep to prevent exposing scavenging wildlife to euthanasia drugs.

Since 2015, several turkey vultures in Marin and Ventura counties, and a bald eagle in Fresno County have been brought to wildlife rehabilitation centers after being exposed to the veterinary euthanasia drug pentobarbital. The source of the pentobarbital remains unknown for all three incidents but it is very likely due to improper handling of the remains of euthanized companion animals, horses, livestock or poultry. Veterinarians and animal owners are responsible for disposing of animal remains properly by legal methods such as cremation or deep burial.

Bald eagle, comatose from pentobarbital poisoning.

A bald eagle, comatose from pentobarbital poisoning, was brought to Critter Creek Wildlife Station, at Squaw Valley, California.

Clear communication between the veterinarian and client is essential to ensure that euthanized remains are handled properly. 

Bald eagles are federally protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and both bald eagles and turkey vultures are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and California Fish and Game Code. Members of the veterinary and livestock communities are asked to share this information with colleagues and the public in an effort to prevent further incidents.

CDFW also asks the public to promptly report any wildlife scavenger suspected of being exposed to euthanasia drugs. Rehabilitation of pentobarbital-poisoned wildlife has been successful with prompt treatment. Pentobarbital-poisoned wildlife may appear dead. They often have no reflex response and breathing may be barely detectable but will otherwise appear intact, without wounds or obvious trauma. Incidents and information about possible sources of poisoning may be reported to the CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory by phone at (916) 358-2790, by email at WILab@wildlife.ca.gov or online via the CDFW website.

If grounded birds are observed, please contact a local wildlife rehabilitation center.

For more information, please see the USFWS Fact Sheet “Secondary Pentobarbital Poisoning of Wildlife.”

Photos courtesy of Louise Culver, Critter Creek Wildlife Station



  • Don’t forget how many pets and birds and other animals that die from rat poison. It was so heart breaking finding my neighbor’s cat with paralyzed legs sitting in a field in the pouring ran. We nursed it back to health but it’s little hips never fully bounced back. Animals eat animals so make sure your not killing all the innocent creatures who’s land we live on!!

  • Desposal of an animal carcass can be a challenge if you don’t have the proper land or earthmoving equipment. There are set backs from water sources and, if you live on land with a lot of water, it can be hard to find a diggable spot far enough away. Burning may not be an option either as there are lots of regulations on that too. Every agency has lots of uncoordinated regulations and, put together, they can be hard to meet.

    As for vet “guidance”, it will consist of nothing but “we don’t take care of it.” There was one person who would haul away horse remains for burial but the charge was about $1000 per animal last time I looked. For other stock, there aren’t any options I know of.

    That is one of the real frustrations about such a lot of regulations. There may be good reasons for restricting a practice but it sure would be nice if the official response to the problems they create was not just “It’s your problem, not ours.”

    • Sharpen your pencil

      It’s called responsibility, I know it is a big word that tends to make people’s knees buckle. But, if you want to have pets/farm animals dealing with their passing is YOUR RESPOSIBILITY. if you don’t like it you could always try a robot pet….

      • Hello! The point was that ‘dealing’with it is made almost impossible by having regulations from different entities telling you what you can’t do. So much of the year, legally you can’t burn the body, you can’t bury the body and you can’t leave it exposed. And there is no legal desposal site.

        No need to be so egregiously rude, especially when you are so obviously ignorant about the world around you.

    • Seem like euthanasia with a bullet to the brain would be a better option and probably cheaper too … it use to be that was the only option and then drug (as in pull behind p.u. or tractor) the carcass to the bone yard. Times have changed. What ever happen to the tallow truck?

  • Sharpen your pencil

    Surprised this wasn’t somehow looped into grows being at fault….

  • I assume most of these cases are livestock since most pet owners bury their pets after paying for euthanasia. That being the case, maybe farmers should save themselves some money and go old school. A $.20 cent bullet is far cheaper than a $300 vet bill.


      • The vets used to have a device to deliver a killing shot. But frankly, even though those are not seen anymore, many animals are loaded with steroids, antibiotics, etc from attempts to save them.

        What we really need is a county provided or at least sanctioned disposal process.

        • Used to have a rendering plant. But they got rid of it. An agricultural county with dairys and meat stock aplenty, we’re insane and violating public health for not having a rendering plant. Would create jobs and the product can be sold to soap factories, etc.

          • Yes yes yes yes. But then the urban people only saw a stinky ugly industry of no use. It was a very useful industry that got no respect.

  • 4.10 with .00 buck. Point blank. It’s the least one can do for one’s Old Friends.

  • Remember some years back the otters off central California killed by kitty litter (via rain runoff)? Humans do incredibly bad things to wildlife. I don’t keep GMO’s (genetically modified organisms = pets). I love wildlife. Livestock owners and pet owners could care less about the damage they inflict on the world. Just look at all the dog poop in yards and around Eureka. Big piles on the open sidewalks. Pet owners think the whole city is a dog park. Street freaks love dragging their (usually) giant dogs around. And yes, criminal growers love GMO’s too. Funny how so many of these hippycrites vote left. No environmentalists among them. Not one. They all drive, too (and leave their GMO’s in the back, barking).

    • The otters were dying from toxoplasmosium (sp?) they got from the cat feces in the runoff, not the litter.

      • You are correct. Toxoplasmids are common in domestic cats (as well as wildlife such as foxes and skunks), and people were flushing their pet waste down the toilet, which then leeched into groundwater systems. Same thing as if you flush medication. Ends up in the ocean, and impacts wildlife.

  • Toxoplasmosis is hard on children.roundwerm too.

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