Post-mortem examination of dead and live stranded beach-cast pinnipeds and cetaceans for determination of a cause of death provides valuable information for the management, mitigation and prosecution of unintentional and sometimes malicious human impacts, such as vessel collision, fishing gear entanglement and gunshot. Delayed discovery, inaccessibility, logistics, human safety concerns, and weather make these events challenging. Over the past 3 decades, in response to public concern and federal and state or provincial regulations mandating such investigations to inform mitigation efforts, there has been an increasing effort to objectively and systematically investigate these strandings from a diagnostic and forensic perspective. This Theme Section provides basic investigative methods, and case definitions for each of the more commonly recognized case presentations of human interactions in pinnipeds and cetaceans. Wild animals are often adversely affected by factors such as parasitism, anthropogenic contaminants, biotoxins, subclinical microbial infections and competing habitat uses, such as prey depletion and elevated background and episodic noise. Understanding the potential contribution of these subclinical factors in predisposing or contributing to a particular case of trauma of human origin is hampered, especially where putrefaction is significant and resources as well as expertise are limited. These case criteria descriptions attempt to acknowledge those confounding factors to enable an appreciation of the significance of the observed human-derived trauma in that broader context where possible.