Interesting article on the importance of leaving dead animals in the wild, not just dead logs

Humans tend to want our surroundings sanitized, including nature, but often what’s best in the long run is to give things the space and time they need to play out on their own.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/08/landscape-of-fear-what-the-rotting-carcasses-of-reindeer-taught-scientists-aoe

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As someone from South Africa this role of carcasses seems kind of obvious, but I’m glad people in Europe are recognising it.

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I saw that this morning, and it’s fascinating. I wonder if the prevalence of large birds the first year was because they did not want to pick over dry carcasses. They talked about the birds bringing in seeds in their guts - I wonder from how far away these came. The bit about non-predatory birds feeding on insects etc was interesting, but I wonder if these birds also picked at the carcasses. So many questions, but little concrete information!

Perhaps - and I don’t know South Africa at all, really - is the different places where large animals die. Here in Canada most of the larger mammals die alone in the forests, where few people go. Few of us see this kind of progression just because they are hidden, or in more populated areas, removed. I’ve also read that in Alaska people are allowed to take fresh road killed home!

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Here’s a couple media articles if interested:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/moose-salvage-network-alaska

https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/wildlife/2017/04/05/alaska-moose-federation-reboots-roadkill-salvage-program-only-to-lose-funding/

And here’s an example of a “roadkill application” https://www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/police/roadkill-application

Interesting to read what you sign up for.

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Thank you. I had gotten my information from an article similar to the first one (can’t remember where!). I’ve also seen guides from folks further south who recommend and advise on how to use roadkill for food. Since I don’t hunt, I was only ever tempted to stop once - I took the same back-road every day, and saw a dead deer that was not there the evening before. I thought - what if I just carved off a back leg? I didn’t, for a number of reasons.
The application form was very interesting! Again, thank you for that information!

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but then - imagine, next time a dead whale washes up on a city beach.
The reaction if it was. Simply left there to rot and for the scientist to observe the interactions.

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Humans have tried to interfere in the decomposition of a dead whale on a beach near a city at least once before with classic and spectacular results: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPuaSY0cMK8
They were trying to speed up the decomposition process, but it didn’t go as planned (spoiler/trigger alert: dead whole whale and dead whale in pieces both depicted in newscast).

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Cape Town ‘tidies’ dead whales away to landfill. With the kelp which will be piling up on our beaches after two approaching winter storms.

The article includes links to research papers published from studies of this, and those research papers answer some of your questions.

Regarding the birds picking at the carcasses, given my own observations in various parts of the world, I’d say it’s almost certain that many of them did. You see this often with chickadees in the winter; they’ll pick at deer carcasses and other animals pulling bits of flesh from the bones. Most common during winter when other foods are scarce.

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Like here, with my lifer boreal chickadee. Felt like cheating since the deer carcass was hoisted and strapped to a tree but I got great looks and listens from a car blind: (don’t click if you don’t want to see dead deer in a tree being eaten by an adorable passerine)
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19800307

I’ve observed this behavior with parids on unmoved roadkill in winter as well. Most kills I come across are either barely sign or just fur and skeletons.

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That would be so interesting to observe! I do understand the rationale of removing them from the beaches that people use. It’s kind of a shame that the beach couldn’t simply be closed for a year or two to allow the natural decomposition to take place and give time for the bacterial load to subside to ‘safe’ levels, but there you have it.

Have there been any whale carcasses that washed up in places in Cape Point, De Hoop, or other natural coastline areas?

The ones I see on social media, or hear about on the news, are around the city.
It would certainly be interesting to read the research.

Perhaps our dead whales are towed out to sea
https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/what-happens-when-whales-die.html

Great article. Very impactful

They’re just paying back all the deer that eat baby birds. :laughing:

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Here in Maine I know a few people that have an in with their local Sheriff and are on the call list for when a deer or Moose are hit. Similar to what you said I’m certain there are plenty that die in the forests but at least those removed by people along roads get put to good use!

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