On yesterday's walk, I found three magpies feasting on a road/car-killed ground squirrel. I think three of them could probably do the killing themselves (I saw one severely harassing a raven on the ground), but the little research I did claims they are only scavengers. I had this scene to myself and found myself wondering how many cars would be parked and cameras clicking if three wolves or a bear were eating an elk.
There's certainly no difference in the fundamental process, and I have seen lots of people here photographing magpies as well as wolves and bears. There even seemed to be a definite pecking order among the birds as among wolves. One remained eating and chasing off the others as I neared, and there seemed to be a definite ranking among the other two as well.
But it seems to me the most common reaction to the birds eating would be one of disgust or indifference rather than the fascination which causes the bear and wolf jams on roads all over the park. So what is the difference? Are we repelled by non-mammal eating mammal? Does size matter? Are we subconsciously attracted to animals we know could kill us? Or are birds and rodents simply unworthy of our attention and interest, like the chickens and pigs and cows and all the others placed in the food category by those who love their dogs and cats?
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