Carcass Provisioning to Support Scavengers: Evaluating a Controversial Nature Conservation Practice

Debbie Fielding*, Scott Newey, René van der Wal, R. Justin Irvine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


A number of scavenger species have suffered population declines across Europe. In attempts to reverse their decline, some land and wildlife managers have adopted the practice of leaving or placing out carcasses of wild or domestic herbivores to provide a source of carrion. However, this can be a controversial practice, with as yet unclear outcomes for many target species and the ecosystems they are part of. Here we bring out the key aspects of this increasingly common conservation practice illustrated using three contrasting cases studies. We show that the provision of carcasses is often motivated by a desire to benefit charismatic species or to facilitate nutrient cycling throughout an ecosystem. Evidence for the effectiveness of this practice in achieving these objectives, however, is mostly lacking, with ecologists studying “easier” species groups such as beetles and therefore not providing relevant insights. Moreover, conflicts between environmental policies that carcass provisioning is aimed at and other social and economic objectives do occur but these projects are often designed without taking into account this broader context. We conclude that expecting carcasses to simply be “good for biodiversity” may be too naïve a view. A greater knowledge of the impact of carcass provisioning and placement on ecosystems and society at large is required before it can become a more effective conservation tool at a wider scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)810-819
Number of pages10
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014


  • Beliefs
  • Biodiversity
  • Conflict
  • Economics
  • Nutrients
  • Public perception


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