Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shirley's Prize

A week ago, I spotted The Black Dog (also sometimes known as Shirley Puppy) licking or eating something way out in the back of one of our pastures. I went to investigate. Shirley left before I arrived, heading for her home in the llama/sheep covered area behind Johnny's shop. What Shirley had been licking was a stomach, intact, but very nicely cleaned off. I didn't know whose stomach it was... I wasn't missing any goats or sheep or llamas.

Later that day, the mystery was solved when Johnny called me out to the llama/sheep covered area. Being guarded by Shirley Puppy was the head and front quarters of a yearling deer. Something, I suspected a coyote, had killed the deer and Shirley had found part of the uneaten remains and hauled them home... along with the stomach that she left in the field having licked everything worthwhile off of it.

The next day I hiked down to the lower field, beyond the stomach field, with The Big White Dog (also known as Mister McCoy), to see if I could find any more of the poor creature and possibly determine who the murderer had been. McCoy, unlike Shirley, does not have the run of the neighborhood but is locked in with the goats except when I take him out. Unlike Shirley, McCoy is too big to squeeze through the fences that Shirley slithers through.

The Big White Dog has a marvelous sense of smell and found every coyote scat along our way. He followed the scent to the fence, which he could not get through but which the coyote obviously had as the stomach was no longer in the field. Then McCoy traced the coyote's path to a nearby tree, where lay the stomach contents but not the stomach, which the coyote apparently found tastier than Shirley Puppy had.

After McCoy had licked every bit of whatever he could find that was edible around the area of the undigested stomach contents, I convinced him to keep looking, or rather, sniffing. He followed scents toward the woods and found several tiny pieces of deer hair along the way... and more coyote scat. Once in the woods, McCoy led me to a brushy area which must have been full of delicious scents as he spent a long time checking them out, including trying to nose his way under the nearby brush pile where the dead dear had probably been stashed and where Shirley had probably found the head with shoulders and front legs. Not much was left except a few pieces of hide with hair which McCoy promptly ate.

While The Big White Dog was occupied cleaning up the evidence, I walked a bit farther on a critter trail and spotted a few slivers of bone, one still with a small amount of flesh on it, and more patches of deer hide and hair. McCoy arrived but I hauled him off before he could clean up this area as I wanted to put the trail camera there and see what might return to the site. Later that day, Johnny and I brought the camera. McCoy accompanied us and tried again to tidy up.

What came the first day was, predictably, Shirley Puppy, looking to see if there was anything else left. A few days later, a neighbor's dog arrived checking out the scene. We have yet to catch a coyote in the camera but other woodland creatures came browsing at night. Here are videos of two of them.

I took a photo of Shirley's deer head but decided it was too gruesome to share. I felt badly about the death of the yearling that is no doubt one of the twins that grew up in our neighborhood... and who have been pruning my blueberries and roses nightly. The deer pellets in my garden and nightly prunings have ended since this deer met its demise, so I am not as sad as I might be. And obviously quite a few creatures have made use of the carcass: nothing in nature is wasted. But I would really like to get rid of the deer head that is all that remains, now, of Shirley's prize. I'll bet the llamas and sheep would like it gone, too.

Today, January 30, 2013, I reread this post and realized that this deer was likely killed by a bobcat or cougar, not a coyote. Coyotes don't stash their kills in brush piles. A coyote may well have eaten the stomach after the cat had taken the rest away. The deer head disappeared from Shirley's area behind the shop, never to resurface. I suspect something that Shirley did not want to tackle reclaimed it.

1 comment:

  1. The Stomach Field! How long will it retain that moniker?
    I just think that trail camera is about the coolest thing. I wish I had one. It is so interesting to see the raccoon checking out the camera. They are obviously more tuned in than possums.