What began as an ordinary walk-about on a rather cloudy day ended with a great find. There was an area of our property I hadn’t trekked through in months. It was time, my curiosity said, to see what changes nature had thrown our way over the winter. There was also another reason for a walk-about — shed antlers. The male deer lose their antlers every year, usually during January and February. This was March.
Part of the walk-about included going from one side of a gully to the other. One of those where it fairly easy to get to the bottom, but a challenge to get up the other side. Contemplating this challenge, looking to my right, there was a color out of place. Hummm. So I took the picture that opened this posting. Perhaps you can spot it. But since it is a different experience in person, I’ve enlarged it.
And enlarged it again.
While I’d found individual sheds, some very massive and irregular, this is a first for me. Looking through the leaves, I also found the lower jaw, intact. That too is very unusual. For some reason these particular bones had not washed further down to the base of the gully. There were a few other bones, gnawed on ribs, vertebrae and long bones, but they were found further down.
So what happened? We can only speculate. Big bucks, this was at least a 10 pointer, don’t just up and die of natural causes at the top of a gully. The bones were very clean. No hair or skin was left. It can take up to two ears for hair to decompose. My guess is that this deer was shot during the 2008 hunting season. Injured deer can sometimes travel for miles before going down because of blood loss. Some survive. This one didn’t.
While it may seem a shame this happened to the buck, there are some positives. This deer fed a great number of animals during a time of year when food is scarce. Of course vultures had a feast and possibly fox, coyote and a whole bunch of insects. Its bones continued giving by providing calcium to animals such as squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs and turtles.
The key to finding the unusual is being aware of and investigating the things that seem out of place. The flash of white jumped out to me. It was not usual in that leaf covered location. Now I get to closely examine a real deer skull. It is fascinating. More on that another time.