Carrion is a vital food source for many different animals. These scavengers feed on the decaying flesh of dead animals, including roadkill. While it may seem disgusting for a creature to feed on dead flesh, the animals that eat roadkill play an important role in disposing of decaying matter and helping to stop the spread of bacteria caused by rotting flesh.
9 Animals That Eat Roadkill
Animals that eat roadkill can be found throughout the world, and range from feathered creatures to those that look similar to your family dog. Keep reading to learn more about these interesting members of the animal kingdom.
1. Turkey Vultures
Scientific Name: Cathartes aura
Turkey vultures are often thought of as nature’s garbage disposal. These useful scavengers feed almost exclusively on carrion. Turkey vultures prefer eating fresh roadkill, but they won’t turn their nose up at older carrion if they don’t have any other choice.
These medium-sized birds are found from South America to southern Canada, and they measure about 2 ½ feet and have a 6 foot wingspan. They can also weigh between 2 and 4 pounds.
Scientific Name: Corvus
While roadkill isn’t the only thing crows will eat, it is a major part of their diet. They will also consume just about anything they can catch, such as small rodents, bugs, and even corn and wheat. These iconic birds are black with large bills.
They can measure 16 to 21 inches long and weight about a pound. Crows and ravens are often confused with one another, but ravens are much larger than the crow.
Scientific Name: Buteo
Hawks will and do eat roadkill. Like crows, roadkill isn’t the main part of their diet, but they will take full advantage if they come across carrion. Hawks also consume amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and other birds.
Hawks can range in size from 18 to 26 inches and can weigh as much as 2 pounds, or a little over. They are widely found throughout Canada, North America, Mexico, Central America, Jamaica, and the West Indies.
4. Andean Condors
Scientific Name: Vultur gryphus
Condors, like turkey vultures, feed exclusively on carrion, which means they are another animal that eats roadkill. With that said, however, carrion are more inclined to consume larger animals than smaller animals hit by cars. So you probably won’t see a condor stopping to feast on smaller roadkill, such as rabbits or squirrels.
While many condor species do consume roadkill, there are some, such as the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) that don’t feed on roadkill. This is because the California condor is extremely wary of people and tends to stay in areas with little to no human interaction.
Scientific Name: Hyaenidae
Hyenas are both scavengers and carnivores, which means they will consume roadkill and other carrion, as well as prey on animals that are still alive. Hyenas have a unique digestive system that lets them digest things that other animals cannot, such as hooves, bones, ligaments, and horns.
An interesting fact about hyenas is that they technically kill their prey. In most cases, they will chase the animal until it becomes exhausted. This prevents their prey from defending itself, which allows hyenas to consume the prey while it is still alive.
Scientific Name: Canis latrans
Coyotes are another animal that isn’t strictly a scavenger. They will also catch various mammals, such as mice, rabbits, and even some insects. That doesn’t mean they won’t also feed on roadkill if they find it.
Coyotes are extremely adaptable and found throughout the United States and Canada. They live in a wide array of habitats, including grasslands, wooded areas, suburbs and cities, tundras, and swamps. They are considered rather dangerous because of the simple fact that they are not overly cautious of humans and can make their way into residential areas looking for food.
7. Tasmanian Devils
Scientific Name: Sarcophilus harrisii
Tasmanian devils are not as wide spread as some of the other animals on this list, as they are only found on the island of Tasmania. Unfortunately, this animal is listed as endangered and has a decreasing population caused by a few different factors, one of which is humans.
Because the Tasmanian devil regularly feeds on roadkill, they are more likely to be hit by cars. In fact, it was once estimated that 1,700 Tasmanian devils were killed on the roads every year.
8. Komodo Dragons
Scientific Name: Varanus komodoensis
Komodo dragons are opportunistic feeders, which means they eat just about anything that they come across, including roadkill. These aggressive lizards can even attack humans unprovoked. To make these creatures even more frightening, komodo dragons are also venomous and will ooze their venom into bite wounds.
Komodo dragons are also known to sometimes eat human corpses. The villagers in Komodo had to move their graves to harder soil and pile rocks on top to keep the komodo dragons from digging up the shallow graves.
9. Carrion Beetles
Scientific Name: Silphidae
As its name suggests, the carrion beetle feasts on carrion and can be found on just about any roadkill. They are considered beneficial insects that help to dispose of and recycle dead animals.
The carrion beetle is a small insect, measuring about 1.4 inches in length and about ½ an inch in diameter. They can have either a completely black body or a dark body with yellow, red, or orange markings.