Determining the Density and Fate of Piute Ground Squirrel Carcasses in the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Ben Pauli


Recreational shooting is a popular activity in Idaho. While many people target inanimate objects, others choose to shoot small mammals such as ground squirrels. Lead gunshot used by shooters may be harmful to species that scavenge ground squirrels carcasses, leading to lead poisoning. Before such a relationship can be established, however, both the density of squirrel carcasses and the species that scavenge carcasses must be established. Therefore the purpose of this research was to determine the density, persistence and fate of ground squirrels carcasses. We predicted that squirrel carcass density would be high following a shooting event and that golden eagles, hawks, corvids; and other ground squirrels would quickly scavenge carcasses. We surveyed shooting areas in the Snake River Birds of Prey NCA immediately following shooting events during March 2015. There, we performed transect surveys and estimated squirrel carcass densities. In addition, we set up motion-sensor cameras to observe the fate of ground squirrel carcasses to determine at what rate scavenging species consumed carcasses. Identifying which animals consume these ground squirrel carcasses can help us understand how they can may be affected by the lead within the carrions they eat and allow us to make recommendations for possible management approaches.

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