March 2021 - 25

Beth Wommack holds a specimen of a spotted skunk. The museum counts on agency partners
and the public to help it acquire rare vertebrate specimens. (Photo by Ted Brummond/University
of Wyoming)

Preserving the rare
By Steven Buskirk
and Elizabeth Wommack

Two species of spotted skunk occur in the state, but the zone of contact
between the two is poorly understood. (Adobe Stock Photo)

species identity of spotted skunks across Wyoming.
The zone of contact between the two species is of
keen interest to scientists studying conservation
genetics, and specimens from any part of the state
would be useful to wildlife biologists.
The rarest carnivores of Wyoming are just a few
examples of wildlife researchers in Wyoming would
like to understand better. Museums are important
repositories of specimens of wildlife, and the public
has an important role to play in gathering and contributing information on rare wildlife to the Game
and Fish, the University of Wyoming Museum of
Vertebrates and to the Wyoming Natural Diversity
Database. These and other agencies are cooperators,
and sharing information with one means sharing
with them all. Keep an eye out for unusual wildlife photos and specimens - you could contribute
the next important piece of information about a
rare carnivore.
- Steve Buskirk is an emeritus professor of Zoology and
Physiology at the University of Wyoming. His research on
carnivores in Wyoming has included work on martens, badgers,
black-footed ferrets and their prey.
- Elizabeth (Beth) Wommack is the staff curator and collections
manager at the University of Wyoming Museum of Vertebrates.
She documents evidence of distributions and curates specimens
of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians.


One of the most important sources of new specimens for natural
history collections is salvage - animals found dead, accidentally
killed or euthanized by wildlife managers. Although how an animal
dies may be unknown, it can still provide important information
on the distribution and habitat associations of its species. Whereas
research may focus on a limited number of species and how they live,
salvage casts a broad net across the state, providing new knowledge
about species that may be too rare for focused research. Salvaged
specimens come from various sources: the Wyoming Game and Fish
Department, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Wyoming
researchers, USDA Wildlife Services, wildlife rehabilitators and the
general public. All of these donors are potentially important.
If you find an animal you would like to salvage for research, it's
important to keep several things in mind. First, avoid animals that
could have diseases communicable to humans or pets. Do not touch
dead animals that are known rabies carriers, or animals with a history
of unusual behavior. Second, if you see a mammal you think may
be rare and important, photograph it, record the location and date,
protect the carcass from scavengers and decay and call your nearest
Game and Fish regional office. Tell them what you think you have
found and ask for advice about how to submit the specimen to
an agency or museum. That eliminates any confusion about what
you propose to do and ensures that state and federal wildlife laws
are followed. You can email a photo and location information to or
If you learn that salvage is permissible, wear disposable gloves when
handling the carcass, or turn a plastic bag inside out and wrap it
around your hand, then grasp the animal through the bag and turn
the bag around the animal and seal it inside. Record the locality and
date of the specimen, store this information with it and freeze the
sealed specimen promptly. Be sure to wash your hands and watch
out for fleas, ticks and other external parasites.
Wyoming Wildlife | 25


March 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March 2021

From the Director
In this issue
A couple pennies
Opening shot
Ask Game and Fish
Project profiles
Case files
In the field
Tracking the rarest carnivores
Seeking the slam
A family matter
Getting kids outside
Wild country dispatch
March 2021 - Cover
March 2021 - From the Director
March 2021 - In this issue
March 2021 - A couple pennies
March 2021 - Mailbag
March 2021 - Opening shot
March 2021 - 7
March 2021 - News
March 2021 - 9
March 2021 - 10
March 2021 - 11
March 2021 - Ask Game and Fish
March 2021 - Project profiles
March 2021 - Case files
March 2021 - 15
March 2021 - In the field
March 2021 - 17
March 2021 - Tracking the rarest carnivores
March 2021 - 19
March 2021 - 20
March 2021 - 21
March 2021 - 22
March 2021 - 23
March 2021 - 24
March 2021 - 25
March 2021 - Seeking the slam
March 2021 - 27
March 2021 - 28
March 2021 - 29
March 2021 - 30
March 2021 - 31
March 2021 - A family matter
March 2021 - 33
March 2021 - 34
March 2021 - 35
March 2021 - 36
March 2021 - 37
March 2021 - Getting kids outside
March 2021 - 39
March 2021 - 40
March 2021 - 41
March 2021 - 42
March 2021 - 43
March 2021 - 44
March 2021 - 45
March 2021 - Wild country dispatch
March 2021 - 47
March 2021 - Backpage