The Unsung Benefits of Urban Scavengers
By Sarah de Weerdt/Anthropocene
Photo by hedera.baltica/flickr
Urban scavengers such as gulls, crows, and foxes are fantastically efficient at removing roadkill from cities, spiriting away small carcasses within hours. In fact, they are so good at what they do that we may be drastically underestimating the number of animals killed by vehicles. These conclusions come from a study conducted in Cardiff, Wales and published in the
Journal of Urban Ecology
Researchers from Cardiff University installed motion-sensing cameras at six sites in residential neighborhoods and six sites in parks and public gardens. They placed chicken heads near each camera to simulate roadkill the size of a small rodent or bird.
Of 120 “roadkill” carcasses that the scientists set out, 90 disappeared within 12 hours. The cameras captured seven different species removing roadkill: herring gull (Larus argentatus), lesser black-backed gull (L. fuscus), carrion crow (Corvus corone), Eurasian magpie (Pica pica), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), domestic dog (Canis familiaris), and domestic cat (Felis catus). Scavengers nicked the roadkill an average of 310 minutes after it appeared.