Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Interdisciplinary Studies (MIS)

Degree Name

Interdisciplinary Studies

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Criminology, Forensic Anthropology (for wildlife forensics)

Department or School/College

Interdisciplinary Studies Program

Committee Chair

Daniel P. Doyle

Commitee Members

Ashley, H. McKeown, Gregory D. Johnson, Tim Eicher, David Oates, James Jonkel


decomposition, forensic entomology, forensics, poaching investigations, postmortem interval, time of death, wildlife


University of Montana


An issue with many poaching investigations is the discovery of carcasses in advanced stages of decomposition with little information to indicate time of death (TOD). To address TOD issues of carcasses found in a state of decomposition, and to provide training materials and field tools for investigating officers, this project was initiated to identify decomposition stages and to monitor decomposition rates for those stages in the west central area of Montana. A total of 15 carcasses were placed in electrified exclosures during various times of the year which provided seasonal variation and include: a pair of gray wolves (8 total) placed on the same day for each of the four seasons; a black bear placed early fall, and another middle fall; three mountain lion kittens and a whitetail deer placed late fall; and an adult mountain lion placed during the winter. Data collection included weather, photography, decomposition characteristics, and insects. It is also important to note that TOD estimates are appropriate for livestock depredation claims. It may be vital to establish the TOD of the predating carnivore to assure it was legally killed by the livestock manager when livestock were in the area.



© Copyright 2008 F. Carleen Gonder