Avian Scavenging of Small-Sized Pig Carcasses in Central Florida: Utilizing GIS to Analyze Site Variables Affecting Skeletal Dispersal*

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Abstract

Scavengers can significantly alter a forensic scene and consume, modify, disarticulate, and disperse bodies on the ground surface. The research purpose was to examine vulture scavenging in central Florida, USA. Four small-sized pig (Sus scrofa) carcasses were left on the ground surface of two microenvironments (shaded and open) at a secure site with game cameras. Dispersal data were mapped and analyzed using geographical information systems spatial analysis digital mapping tools. The primary avian scavengers recorded included black vultures (Coragyps atratus) and turkey vultures (Cathartes aura), as well as bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Carcass dispersal patterns were impacted by foliage density (grass height and concentrations of bushes and trees) and proximity to the perimeter fence. While the majority of skeletal elements were dispersed within 6 m of the carcass deposition locations, dispersion occurred over a greater distance in the wooded microenvironment. Overall, vulture behaviors deleteriously destroyed and changed the context of the scene, with black vultures having the greatest impact.

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