U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

Spring 2017


Human–Wildlife Interactions 11(1):8–18, Spring 2017.


U.S. government work.


To better understand the use of mortality pits by wildlife and possible pathogen dissemination from the resulting wildlife contact in these areas, we used 8 camera traps on 4 mortality pits in Colorado from June to December 2014 to create a species inventory and establish use estimates for those species. We observed 43 species visiting (in or near) the mortality pits during 1,168 total camera trap days. Of these, 24 species directly interacted with the mortality pits or carcasses contained within them. The most common visitors to mortality pits were raccoons (Procyon lotor), coyotes (Canis latrans), domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), blackbilled magpies (Pica hudsonia), corvid species (i.e., American crows [Corvus brachyrhynchos] or common ravens [Corvus corax]), great blue herons (Ardea herodias), house sparrows (Passer domesticus), and turkey vultures (Cathartes aura). Mammals were often solitary visitors to mortality pits, while birds often visited mortality pits in mixed flocks of 2 to 5 species, putting them at a higher risk of interspecific pathogen spread. Our findings indicate that many animals come into direct and indirect contact with interspecific and conspecific species at mortality pits.

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