Determining carcass scavenging rates on major rivers for oil spill response and NRDAR

Science Center Objects

The Challenge: Oil spills on rivers often result in bird mortalities and to assess the magnitude of injury to birds following an oil spill, searches are usually conducted for debilitated and dead birds. However these searches underestimate the total number of affected birds because dead or oiled birds can be overlooked by searchers and they can also be missed by searchers because the birds are removed by scavengers.

The Science:  Overall objective is to establish pre-disaster carcass scavenging rates that can serve as baselines for estimating the magnitude of avian injury following future oil spills along two major rivers.  Scavenging rates will be determined for the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers with respect to location on river, season, and year.  Our results will allow the USFWS and other natural resource agencies to be more prepared to accurately evaluate impacts to birds following a spill in a riparian environment.

The Future: Scavenging rate trials will be conducted during spring and late summer for two years at 6 sites on both rivers.