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Identification of vertebrate scavengers of small mammal carcasses in a forested landscape

Abstract

We identified vertebrate scavengers of small mammal carcasses at the 780-km2 Savannah River Site during the winter of 2000–2001. Rodent carcasses, differing in size and visual conspicuousness, were placed in upland pine forests and bottomland hardwood forests during six 2-week periods. Sixty-two of the 96 carcasses (65%) were removed by vertebrates. With the aid of remote photography, we identified 11 species of scavengers removing carcasses. RaccoonsProcyon lotor, gray foxesUrocyon cinereoargenteus, and feral pigsSus scrofa scavenged most frequently. The mean elapsed time for carcass removal was 5.6 days. The number of carcasses removed by vertebrates did not differ significantly with respect to carcass size, visual conspicuousness, or habitat type; however, air temperature was strongly correlated (positively) with carcass removal. Our study demonstrates that many mammal species are capable of utilizing small carrion items as a food resource, and suggests that scavenging may account for a higher proportion of the diet of some facultative scavengers than is now widely assumed.

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DeVault, T.L., Rhodes, O.E. Identification of vertebrate scavengers of small mammal carcasses in a forested landscape. Acta Theriol 47, 185–192 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03192458

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Key words

  • carrion
  • diet
  • food habits
  • remote photography
  • scavenging