The comparative effects of large carnivores on the acquisition of carrion by scavengers

Maximilian L. Allen, L. Mark Elbroch, Christopher C. Wilmers, Heiko U. Wittmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pumas (Puma concolor) and black bears (Ursus americanus) are large carnivores that may influence scavenger population dynamics. We used motion-triggered video cameras deployed at deer carcasses to determine how pumas and black bears affected three aspects of carrion acquisition by scavengers: presence, total feeding time, and mean feeding-bout duration. We found that pumas were unable to limit acquisition of carrion by large carnivores but did limit aspects of carrion acquisition by both birds and mesocarnivores. Through their suppression of mesocarnivores and birds, pumas apparently initiated a cascading pattern and increased carrion acquisition by small carnivores. In contrast, black bears monopolized carrion resources and generally had larger limiting effects on carrion acquisition by all scavengers. Black bears also limited puma feeding behaviors at puma kills, which may require pumas to compensate for energetic losses through increasing their kill rates of ungulates. Our results suggest that pumas provide carrion and selectively influence species acquiring carrion, while black bears limit carrion availability to all other scavengers. These results suggest that the effects of large carnivores on scavengers depend on attributes of both carnivores and scavengers (including size) and that competition for carcasses may result in intraguild predation as well as mesocarnivore release.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)822-833
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Carrion acquisition
  • Competition
  • Energy distribution
  • Mesocarnivore
  • Puma concolor
  • Scavenging
  • Ursus americanus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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