Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Second Life of a Dead Owl

The dead screech owl lay beneath a conifer in the yard; but it hadn’t been dead long. It was in full rigor mortis which, in an animal this size and depending on temperature, usually begins an hour or less after death and lasts less than 24 hours. The bird appeared to have a broken right wing which drooped somewhat loosely.

Rather than burying the bird, I decided to set a  camera trap to capture photos of the scavengers that came for a meal. During the first 24 hours the camera was in place, nothing fed on the carcass. The next night an opossum visited and a series of photographs showed that it ate part of the owl.

The next night a gray fox arrived

And the fox marked the spot as its own –

The fox visited repeatedly over the next week, eating some of the screech owl on numerous occasions.

At about the same time a wandering house cat stopped by; but there was only a single photograph of it so it apparently didn’t stay long.

Other visitors to the remains were an eastern chipmunk, which came on the eighth day –

And a gray squirrel, or squirrels, that visited repeatedly –

Rodents like the chipmunk and squirrel regularly gnaw on bones for the calcium they contain. What many people don’t realize is that these rodents also eat meat and frequently kill and eat nestling birds and smaller mammals.

The last visitor before the camera was removed was a gray fox that came on the 17th day –

By that time, the only discernible remains of the screech owl were several of the long primary wing feathers. The fox must have been attracted by the residual scent because there was nothing left to eat.


The Furry Gnome said...

Interesting experiment. I really should look into a trailcam, just for fun.

Powell River Books said...

Nothing goes to waste in nature. I just got a trail camera to check out what's happening around our cabin home. - Margy

eileeninmd said...

Hello, interesting experiment. Your camera showed many critters coming to fed on the carcass. The fox is beautiful. Great post and photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Have a great day!

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Nice work with that camera trap, several of those shots are very good.

Michael K. Grim said...

I like this post and the photos. Great idea and experiment.A trail camera is very useful in the forest.