Wildlife Rotation Kick Off

Fourth year veterinary students get a wilder perspective on veterinary pathology

On October 3 2017, fourth year veterinary students at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) spent a less glamorous day with wildlife in beautiful Banff National Park in Alberta. The four students tested their pathology skills conducting post mortem exams on species many of them had yet to lay hands on in their young careers. The day kicked off part of a two-week wildlife field medicine rotation fourth year students have the option of applying to enroll in to diversify their experience in their final year of their Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program. The post mortem exams, which are the equivalent of an autopsy in human medicine, were a great opportunity for the students to learn about local wildlife and the value of conducting wildlife disease surveillance in the province.

The wildlife rotation has been in existence since UCVM’s first class of fourth year students in 2011/12. The course is organized by Dr. Owen Slater from the Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, UCVM, who is also one of four CWHC Alberta region associates. Federal parks staff were kind enough to host the day at their post mortem station near the town site of Banff. Dr. Bryan Macbeth, a veterinarian with Parks Canada, helped facilitate the day, and shared his knowledge on wildlife health. Dr. Sam Sharpe, an anatomical pathologist on faculty at the UCVM and CWHC wildlife pathologist took the course lead for the day. Collin Letain, wildlife health technician for CWHC Alberta collected post-mortem samples & reports for CWHC diagnostic caseload, and helped the students become familiar with basic wildlife anatomy.

4th year veterinary medicine students with wildlife rotation course instructor Dr. Owen Slater (right)

Throughout the day in the necropsy lab at Banff, students got experience with a range of wildlife from robins to raptors and black bears to bighorn sheep. Eleven animals were examined, including a lynx, wolf, white-tailed deer and a pair of both black bears and bighorn sheep. Following a picnic lunch overlooking Two Jack Lake on the lookout for bighorn sheep just outside the town of Banff, the afternoon’s attention focused on wildlife of the avian species. Students sorted through a mess of feathers examining a Canada goose, robin, magpie and a red-tailed hawk.

Such practices are beneficial for students to learn normal anatomical structure and gain knowledge on the importance of wildlife health surveillance in order to understand the diversity of pathogens that may transmit between wildlife and domestic animals.

Contributed by: Collin Letain, Wildlife Health Technician CWHC Alberta

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