Autos and the Population Density of Vultures

I have, for years, wondered whether the advent of automobiles and the roads to carry them contribute to the population of vultures and other carrion-eaters. This question emerges from observations of vast numbers of corpses of dead animals killed by automobiles, the circling of vultures overhead, and the presence along roadsides of murders of crows picking at the remains of unfortunate animals that unwittingly took the wrong chance at the wrong time.

It occurs to me that a far greater number of animals fall victim to unnatural causes of death along streets and highways than would die in the absence of roadways. Their deaths provide food for carrion-eaters who absent plentiful corpses might either die or at least be insufficiently healthy to reproduce.

I suppose one way to test the theory would be to identify multiple geographical areas that are similar in topography, vegetation, etc. but that differ in the density of roadways. Then, by counting the number of observations of carrion-eaters in each area during the same time-frames, one might determine whether there’s a statistically significant difference in the populations of carrion-eaters between roadway-dense versus roadway-sparse areas. That may not be the way to do it; and, in fact, others may have (and probably have) already tested my hypothesis. Whether it’s been done before or not, I’d like to have an answer to my question about whether cars contribute to the population of carrion-eaters.

My assumption is that vultures and their dead-flesh-eating kin are more abundant near highways than in areas in which highways do not reach. I envision that a map of the U.S. that shows the density of carrion-eaters would look a bit like a map of the roadways of the U.S.

Aside from thinking about how my pork butt roast in my smoker is coming along, that’s the thing that’s occupying my mind this clear, cool Saturday morning.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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