Monday, January 31, 2011

Carcass-cam: scavengers at a roadkill cafe

Revealing images of winter scavengers

Red-tailed Hawks proved to be the most consistent scavengers of a roadkill button buck. This small white-tailed deer fell to vehicle hit injuries in a secluded corner of our back acre near a large brush pile beside a small stream. Scavengers arrived the next day to begin eating frozen venison. Images speak for themselves.

Red-tailed Hawks spend much more time scavenging than other species imaged.

Infrared illuminated mice (Peromyscus sp.) were first on the scene the first night, returning several times. Additional images show mice entering the skin opening at base of jaw and apparently gleaning the jaw of tissue tatters.

A mink is a regular customer at this roadkill cafe, day and night. 
Red-tailed Hawks squabbling over abundance.
Uneasy truce between scavenging rivals.
At least two, probably three red-tailed's spend a lot of time scavenging.
Opossums take a break from threatening each other to take a few mouthfuls of meat.
About 26,000 white-tailed deer are hit by vehicles annually in Ohio. Additional carcasses are left by errant hunters each autumn and winter. More than 260,000 deer are expected to be harvested and checked-in  during the 2010-2011 hunting season (that's 260,000 gut piles left in woods and fields): uncounted numbers are mortally wounded and lost. Countless quadrupeds; raccoons, skunks, opossums, and dozens more species of wildlife are killed by vehicles. The ecological impact of carcasses supplied by human causes must be huge.

The camera is a Reconyx HC600, a research quality day-night trail camera. The camera is cable-locked to the base of a tree very near the carcass. Set to collect a motion-triggered image each second, the collected images viewed sequentially are like a movie clip of scavenger motion. Time-date-weather stamped digital images, many thousands, tell the whole story of scavengers, day and night.

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