February 6, 2002

Preditors and Scavengers

Well the deer carcass that I put out has started drawing some attention from preditors and scavengers.

I was out at the site this morning and it was visited by 2 coyotes and a red fox. It is actually a bit difficult to photograph now because the coyotes are scattering the pieces around and the site is not as concentrated as it was in the past.

We draw a distinction between preditors and scavengers, and even hold preditors in somewhat of a higher esteem than the "lowly" scavenger. In reality the line between the two is pretty fuzzy. When we think of preditors we tend to think of life and death situations with dramatic attacks. However, most large top preditors, for example bears, coyotes, and eagles are also scavengers.

Bears that come out of hibernation often spend weeks scavenging winter killed animals. Eagles are well known for scavenging dead fish, particularly salmon that have died after spawning. Coyotes not only take advantage of carcasses that they find, but sometimes even specialize in scavenging to the point that they make a career out of hanging around the outskirts of wolf packs to live off the remains of pack kills.

And within communities there are frequently individuals that belong to a group considered as preditors, but don't necessarily make kills themselves. Some gulls specialize in stealing food from others in the community. Some dominent lions live off the kills of the pride by intimidating their way to the food.

I think a very good case can be made for viewing the majority of human beings as scavengers that live off the results of a very few predators within the community. In the end buying a pound of hamburger, or any other food, in the supermarket really comes down to nothing more than participating in a sophisticated scavenger system.

February 7, 2002

February 5, 2002