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Wildlife Use of Mortality Pits and Implications for Disease


With the help of trail cameras, NWRC researchers captured wildlife use and species interactions at mortality pits for carcass disposal at various animal production facilities and for the disposal of road-killed animals. The data were used to evaluate the possible risk of pathogen exposure to wildlife visiting the sites.

Researchers observed 43 species visiting in or near the pits. Mammals were often solitary visitors, while birds were more likely to be in mixed flocks putting them at higher risk of pathogen spread. 

The most common species visiting the pits were raccoons, coyotes, domestic dogs, mule deer, bald eagles, black-billed magpies, American crows and common ravens. Findings indicate that many animals come into direct and indirect contact with other species at mortality pits exposing them to potential pathogens. When feasible, carcasses should be buried daily to avoid attracting scavengers 

For more information, please email nwrc@aphis.usda.gov.

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