Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Saga Concludes

In an earlier post (here) the saga of the dead bear began. That post catalogued the species that my camera trap photographed as they came to feed on the bear’s carcass. It extended from the day we found the bear until an eastern coyote dragged away the remains. There was a lapse of a bit more than a week between the coyote’s removal of the carcass and when I found its new location.

The camera trap was moved to a spot where it could capture photos of the species visiting the new location. Fly larvae had devoured much of the carcass before the coyote dragged it to the new location and, after another week, there wasn’t much left. The first to arrive after the camera was re-located were two common crows –

That night an opossum came by –

Several days later a dog smelled the remains but only stayed long enough for the camera to take one photograph –

The ‘possum visited the carcass each night –

And on one rainy night was accompanied by a moth –

On a day in early May turkey vultures arrived –

The birds scattered the bones as they fed and squabbled over the remaining edibles –

The final photos were of two eastern coyotes when there was little if anything left for them to eat –

One of the coyotes appeared to scent roll on soil containing the odor of the carcass. All canines (wolf, dog, coyote and fox) scent roll to anoint themselves with strong odors. There are several theories about why they do this, but the actual reason(s) is not well understood.

With only a few bones and some hair remaining, it was time to remove the camera and leave the remains to bacteria and other microscopic scavengers. Thus the saga of the dead bear came to an end.

The story may have ended, but a host of questions remain: 
  • Why didn’t the large mammals in the area (bears, coyotes, bobcats) feed on the dead bear during the winter when food was scarce and the meat was fresh? 
  • Although they depend on larger mammals to open a carcass, the ravens that passed over the carcass’s location regularly apparently never even examined the remains, nor (except for two on only one day) did the locally abundant crows – why? 
  • What was the reason that it took until mid-April, when fly maggots had devoured  much of the flesh, for a coyote to finally show interest in the carcass?
  • By the time the vultures arrived the carcass was beneath rapidly expanding foliage; they apparently found it by scent - but it had smelled strongly for a while and the vultures had been back in the area for weeks - what took them so long to find it? 
  • Scavenging wildlife quickly find deer carcasses and rapidly devour the organs and muscles (see this post).  Do most species that scavenge from carcasses deliberately avoid a bear’s remains? If they do, why? 
Questions, questions and more questions. 


The Furry Gnome said...

Lots of interesting questions to keep you busy!

eileeninmd said...

Hello, great series of photo from your wildlife cam. The coyotes are neat. I would think there was not much left for the vultures to eat. You do have some good questions. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

Andrea said...

Thanks for this very informative post. I had lots of questions earlier on, and finally you put them at the end. And the crows are very excellent finders, why didn't they find it when they are still fresh? I can't imagine a lot of them still eat the leftovers of maggots! hahaha

Pat Tillett said...

Several questions that I have absolutely no answers for...
Great post and sequence of events. Everybody in the area came by for a meal. They were all meat eaters, except for the opossum. It must have been eating the maggots and/or other insects.
Really interesting post!