Offal Wildlife Watching Project
To better understand how species use hunter-provided offal
IMAGES SHOW ANIMALS FEEDING ON THE REMAINS OF DEER
The purpose of this research is to better understand what and when species use deer gut piles provided by hunters across Minnesota. Minnesota offers a unique opportunity to look at this across four different biomes and a large metro area. These areas have differing topography, vegetation, and human land use. All of these things are likely to influence the different scavenger assemblages found in each area There are also several methods of hunting such as archery, rifle, and shotgun that may influence where a gut pile is located, and which species visit.
We asked deer hunters in Minnesota to place remote cameras on gut piles from freshly field dressed deer. Volunteers left their cameras to capture pictures for one month to capture all the scavenger species that used the gut pile.
Scavengers have been shown to obtain high quality food from carrion without using the energy needed to capture and kill prey. A large amount of carrion available to scavengers is provided by apex predators, such as wolves, or the natural death of prey. Likewise, at certain times of the year, hunters can provide a significant source of carrion in the form of gut piles. The resource pulse of gut piles that hunters provide generally occurs over a small area and short period of time. This pulse represents a large input of gut piles into the ecosystem from animals that would otherwise not be available to scavengers. Carrion pulses have the potential to reduce predation on prey species by providing a less risky meal for predators. Alternatively, predators that consume carrion may also increase predation pressure on prey populations in the same environment when the carrion pulse is depleted.
Since gut piles are provided by human hunters, the suite of scavengers and time that animals scavenge is likely to differ from carrion left by predators. Mere human presence on the landscape may attract wildlife. For instance, similar to their response to wolf activity, ravens respond positively to the sound of gunshots, because it means easy food. Large carnivores such as gray wolves and bears may also be drawn to hunter provided gut piles.
Project website: https://offal.umn.edu/
Ticket Required: No
Minimum Age: 13