Effect of Scavenger Diversity on the Rate of Carrion Decomposition, The

Ashley, Stephanie
Carrion is a common sight on the landscape in southwestern Wyoming. Its presence can be problematic in the fight to control the spread of disease. One disease of particular concern in the area is Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Studies have shown that the carcasses of dead deer are frequently visited by living deer during decomposition and that CWD can be transmitted for up to two years after death. The presence of scavengers on a landscape could be problematic to disease control if remains are scattered but may prove helpful if the rate of decomposition is significantly expedited. It is reasonable to assume that since different scavenger species consume carrion at different rates and in different ways that a higher diversity of scavenger species could translate into an increased rate of decomposition. This on-going study began in September 2014 and uses a combination of camera traps and live traps to document the scavenger activity at a series of carcass sites. To date, data has been collected from six separate sites. The diversity of scavengers at each site is evaluated using the Shannon-Weiner Index and compared to the rate of decomposition on that site's carcass. Seasonal variation is accounted for. The goal of this project is to create a model that can predict the rate of decomposition of a carcass in areas with varying amounts of scavenger diversity. The results of this study may be valuable to the development of disease management plans.
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