Cascading carrion: Opportunistic predation at deer gut piles

Ellen M. Candler, Amy Rager, Joseph K. Bump

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Carrion is increasingly recognized as an important part of food web ecology that impacts multiple trophic levels and creates an arena for multiple species interactions. The pulsed nature of hunter-derived carrion, in the form of gut piles, is a form of carrion that has been overlooked in the study of food webs and scavenger interaction. The Offal Wildlife Watching project aims to better understand scavenger species that benefit from offal and how they interact with each other and this resource. Through citizen science efforts by hunters and Zooniverse volunteers, we have collected and analyzed over 230,000 images of scavengers at white-tailed deer gut piles. At some gut piles, we have observed barred owls and bobcats both scavenging at hunter provided gut piles and preying on rodents that were also attracted to the gut pile. This interaction, made possible by a food subsidy that is historically novel in time and space, may have implications for rodent populations, predator survival and fecundity, and the activity patterns of both. Continued research and investigation will shed light on the impacts of cascading carrion on species interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00313
JournalFood Webs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR; 2022-149 ) and the United States National Science Foundation (Grant/Award Number: NSF ID# 1545611 and NSF ID# 1556676 ). This publication uses data generated via the platform, development of which is funded by generous support, including a Global Impact Award from Google, and by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. We would especially like to thank the community of hunter scientists that participated in the Offal Wildlife Watching project by setting and retrieving cameras. We would also like to thank the thousands of Zooniverse volunteers that helped to identify species captured by the remote cameras.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


  • Hunting
  • Offal
  • Predator-prey
  • Remote camera
  • Scavengers
  • White-tailed deer


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