Examples of scavengers include hyenas, jackals, opossums, vultures, crows, crabs, lobsters and cockroaches. Many mammals, birds, sea life and insects consume decaying organic matter when necessary but not exclusively. Lions, leopards and wolves mainly hunt for fresh meat, but eat carrion if they encounter it. Foxes and coyotes are more likely to eat carrion in the winter when food is scarce.
In addition to hunting fresh kills, great white sharks eat dead whales, fish and sea lions. Black bears eat carrion when they find it, although they are regularly herbivores, consuming fruit, nuts and berries. Scavenger dogs and crows frequently feed on road kill. Burying beetles, blowflies and yellow jackets are scavengers, consuming decaying animal matter. Dung beetles eat feces.
In suburban settings, opossums and raccoons raid garbage cans for discarded food. Seagulls also feed on garbage. Some insects, such as termites, scavenge dead plant material.
Unlike animals like elephants, which are strict herbivores, scavengers are very adaptable to different and changing environments. They can adjust to whatever food is available and do well in farmland, suburban or urban settings. They play an important role in the ecosystem by keeping the environment cleaner and free of carrion. Scavengers break down decaying organic material and recycle the nutrients back into the ecosystem.