Utilization and Skeletal Disturbances of North American Prey Carcasses


  • Gary Haynes




Animal mortality, Bones, Deer, Moose, North American bison, Palaeoecology, Predation, North America


More than 125 carcasses and skeletal remains of wild bison, moose, and whitetail deer were examined in the field. Most were from closely documented episodes of predation, mass drownings, or other natural causes of death. Predictable and unusual kinds of bone and carcass utilization by timber wolves and bears are described. The variables emphasized include sectioning of carcasses by feeding predators, distribution and dispersal of bones at kill sites, gnaw damage to bones in homesites, kill sites and scavenge sites, potential or observed survival of bones at sites of prey carcasses, and the patterns of scatter or accumulation of skeletal remains in moose and bison ranges due to predation or other natural causes of death. Variations in gnaw damage to bones and utilization of carcasses by carnivores reflect significant aspects of predator-prey interactions, and can be deciphered by ecologists interpreting either fossil or modern assemblages of bones.

Key words: carnivores, prey carcasses, taphonomy, North America, paleoecology, archeological interpretation