Animals that eat dead animals are known as scavengers, and while it may seem like a disgusting way to find a meal, these animals have learned to adapt to harsh conditions. Additionally, scavenger animals play a vital role in any healthy ecosystem by acting as a sort of cleanup crew.
Carcasses are safe havens for various diseases that can affect livestock, wildlife, and any humans. Since scavengers consume carcasses, they help to reduce the chance of an outbreak caused by the carcasses of dead animals.
9 Animals That Eat Dead Animals
While some of the animals on the list may not surprise you, you could be shocked to find out what other members of the animal kingdom actually consume the dead bodies of other creatures. Keep reading to learn more about these animals.
Scientific Name: Cathartes aura
Vultures may be the most well-known scavenger animal, thriving on the carcasses of dead bodies. The vulture is a rather large bird that is often seen circling the sky above a dead or dying animal. Their wingspan can be over 4 feet long, and they can live 10 to 50 years, depending on the species.
2. Australian Sheep Blowflies
Scientific Name: Lucilia cuprina
The Australian sheep blowfly lives in Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, and New Guinea. It is considered a major and serious pest in the Australian sheep industry. The maggots of this insect live in soiled sheep’s wool and will feed not only on the decaying flesh of dead animals, but also on the decaying flesh of live animals.
Scientific Name: Vultur gryphus
Condors are another large scavenging bird that feed exclusively on the dead bodies of animals. They have large black wings with a wingspan of up to 10 feet. These birds are rather inquisitive and intelligent, and can even live for up to 60 years.
A myth about condors is that they vomit as an act of defense when they feel threatened. The truth is that, if they feel nervous or anxious, they will regurgitate their meal. But they don’t use this as a main line of defense. Instead, they use their sharp claws and powerful beaks to defend themselves.
Scientific Name: Hyaenidae
Hyenas are carnivores as well as scavengers, taking just about any opportunity that comes their way to get a meal. Their digestive system allows them to easily digest animal bones, horns, ligaments, skin, hair, and hooves.
These animals may resemble a dog, but hyenas belong to their own unique family called Hyaenidae. They are found throughout Africa, as well as in India and Arabia.
Scientific Name: Canis aureus
Jackals are found in the deserts, savannahs, and grasslands, and feed on plants as well as meat. With that said, however, the flesh of dead animals is the main component of their diet.
Jackals are a member of the canine family, and they share many of the same physical characteristics of a dog. They have excellent stamina and can reach running speeds of up to 10 mph.
Scientific Name: Selachimorpha
Sharks are known as opportunistic scavengers, which means they hunt for their food while also taking advantage of whatever prey comes their way, including the odd dead animal. In fact, it’s not uncommon for sharks to feast on the bodies of larger marine animals, such as whales.
Remember, however, that dead animals are not the sharks’ main food source. That title goes to the other animals swimming in the sea with the sharks.
Scientific Name: Didelphidae
Opossums are another dual feeder, consuming insects, reptiles, birds, berries, small mammals, fruits, amphibians, and carcasses. They mainly feed at night, and while they do look rather intimidating, opossums generally do not pose a threat to humans. In fact, opossums rarely get rabies and even help to keep the tick population down.
Scientific Name: Vulpes
Foxes are another scavenging animal that is often seen feeding on roadkill. While dead bodies are not their only source of food, they won’t pass up a fresh body if they come across one. Additionally, they will feed on rabbits, frogs, worms, rodents, birds, fruit, and berries.
Foxes are found in a wide array of habitats, such as in forests, deserts, mountains, and grasslands. It is also not uncommon to see them in backyards.
Scientific Name: Panthera leo
Even though they are known as the king of the jungle and furious predators, lions are also scavengers at times and will often feast on the carcass of a dead animal. Additionally, these skilled hunters will bully other animals into giving up their kill.