General Question

Patty_Melt's avatar

Could vultures be trained to locate corpses?

Asked by Patty_Melt (12627points) 1 week ago

Dogs are used to sniff out corpses, but would it be a good option to train vultures?
Their sense of smell is quite keen, and they can fly.

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11 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Vultures only like fresh corpses, before bugs and other scavengers have had their fill.

Jeruba's avatar

They already do locate corpses. That’s their role in life. Do you mean train them to locate some specific corpse? How would you do that unless you knew there was a (fresh) corpse there to be found? It seems like dogs that can track scents on the ground would be more useful, since the corpse or corpse-to-be probably traveled by land rather than air.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Mass mud slides are one example.

Sometimes search and rescue turns into recovery in various situations where a general area is known, but search parties are unsuccessful.

gondwanalon's avatar

I think that a vulture could be trained to search for dead humans. Hawks are trained to fly free attack and kill game birds and return to the trainer.

I don’t think that a vulture would be good at finding human bodies because the body would have to be out in the open so the soaring vulture could see it. Not many human bodies are dumped out in the open for all to see.

Cool idea though.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I think they can smell them before they see them.

Darth_Algar's avatar

While vultures do have a better sense of smell than most avian species, it’s still weak compared to most mammals, including humans. Dogs, on the other hand, have one of the strongest senses of smell among land animals.

Zaku's avatar

As @Patty_Melt already wrote, vultures don’t need any training so find corpses. And it doesn’t seem to me that they need to be particularly fresh. I’ve put out some not very fresh and quite small dead animals and the vultures got them pretty quickly. I figured they were spotting them with eyes rather than smelling them, as they got ones that had been lying about, after I put them in a more exposed place… but that might be me imagining what was going on. I only have a little experience with them.

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kritiper's avatar

They don’t need to be trained. From what I’ve heard, it seems they can smell a dead animal from miles away. But then, who could miss that stench?? Magpies might be a better choice since a vulture can strip the flesh off of your finger in short order.

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Patty_Melt's avatar

There is a misunderstanding.
I know they can find dead bodies. I’m wondering whether it would be feasible or even possible to train them to seek out human remains on demand.
I’m thinking in regards to things like children missing in difficult areas to search, planes down which can’t be found but a general area is known, mud slides.
If they could be trained, and fitted with GPS tracking, there are several news items I’ve seen where I thought someone could have been found sooner with air support that can fly in low, and smell. It would be particularly useful, I think, in cases where there might be corpses and survivors,in getting aid more quickly to the survivors.

I just wondered if anyone thought it would be an idea worth proposing.

It looks like none of us really know enough about them.

Thanks to all for trying.

@kritiper, I promise to not poke em with my finger.

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