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Estimating Carcass Persistence and Scavenging Bias in a Human Influenced Landscape

Journal of Field Ornithology

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Abstract

We examined variation in persistence rates of waterfowl carcasses placed along a series of transects in tundra habitats in western Alaska. This study was designed to assess the effects of existing tower structures and was replicated with separate trials in winter, summer and fall as both the resident avian population and the suite of potential scavengers varied seasonally. Carcass persistence rates were uniformly low, with <50% of carcasses persisting for more than a day on average. Persistence rate varied by carcass age, carcass size, among transects and was lowest in the fall and highest in the summer. We found little support for models where persistence varied in relation to the presence of tower structures. We interpret this as evidence that scavengers were not habituated to searching for carcasses near these structures. Our data demonstrate that only a small fraction of bird carcasses are likely to persist between searches, and if not appropriately accounted for, scavenging bias could significantly influence bird mortality estimates. The variation that we documented suggests that persistence rates should not be extrapolated among tower locations or across time periods as the variation in carcass persistence will result in biased estimates of total bird strike mortality.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Estimating Carcass Persistence and Scavenging Bias in a Human Influenced Landscape
Series title:
Journal of Field Ornithology
Volume
81
Issue:
2
Year Published:
2010
Language:
English
Publisher:
John Wiley & Sons
Contributing office(s):
Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB
Description:
206-214
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Country:
United States