University of Minnesota Extension researchers are looking for hunters this fall willing to place cameras on gut piles left in the woods after they field dress their deer to better understand the role of millions of pounds of deer gut. in the ecosystem.
This is a great opportunity for deer hunters to contribute to wildlife science and management, said Joseph Bump, professor of forest wildlife research and education at the University of Minnesota.
Many hunters are already curious about which animals are eating their deer guts, and they’ve set up their cameras.
The researchers are working with the Offal Wildlife Watching Project. (Fallen refers to the entrails and other internal organs.)
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Over the past five years, members have teamed up with more than 90 hunters who have collectively shot more than 170 gut piles across the state, capturing 230,000 images.
This year, for the first time with state funding through the Environment and Natural Resources Trust, researchers have purchased cameras and are providing them to hunters who want to participate.
We wondered what scavengers eat hunter-provided gut piles in Minnesota, across the state, and how that varies across biomes, says Ellen Candler, a postdoctoral associate at the University of Minnesota.
Hunters kill about 200,000 deer in the state each year. Most dispose of the trash immediately. This allows the carcass to cool quickly to avoid spoilage. Virtually all remaining deer guts were left in the field.
That means more than 4 million pounds of nutrient resources are available. an easy safe picnic for dozens of wildlife species. There is still no data to show which species rely on deer guts, how long they persist on the landscape, and whether they pose threats to scavengers through disease transmission or contaminants.
Without hunter participation, we couldn’t really understand the questions we’re interested in, Candler said.
So far, Candler said, they’ve collected video of at least 50 different species scavenging piles of feces.
From things you might expect, such as bald eagles, ravens and ravens, to kingfishers and martens to flying squirrels, Candler said.
They also looked at species not normally considered scavengers: rabbits, cardinals and five different species of woodpeckers.
Researchers have also documented barred owls and bobcats in gut piles. But they didn’t eat the offal. Instead, they preyed on mice that had come to scavenge piles of intestines.
Cameras also captured deer in piles of guts. They often just pass through, but sometimes they eat the leftovers.
Candler said they are working with researchers at the CenterforPrion Researchand Outreach in Minnesota to determine whether scavengers may play a role in the spread of the chronic wasting disease.
Hunters interested in taking part can register on the Offal Wildlife Watching Projects website. Researchers are particularly interested in installing more cameras in southwestern Minnesota, as well as in the far northern parts of the state.
Participants commit to leaving the cameras off for one month after field-dressing their deer. Candler said many hunters participate out of curiosity. He says they are interested in what might visit their piles.
And then when they come back and get the pictures, they’re so excited, Candler said.
I had people say. Oh, this is a great opportunity to hang out with my grandson or granddaughter. They are happy that science is interested in something they are interested in.
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