Friday, January 30, 2009

Blood on the Snow



De-e-e-p snow.  Huff, puff!  More a snowshoe trudge than a hike to the river today through heaps and mounds of new-fallen snow.  I pity the poor deer trying to make their way through this.  I did see a deer trail today as I humphed through the woods to Rippled Rocks point, the first I've seen in this particular area this winter.    But the most prominent trail in the woods today was, I believe, a bobcat:    a four-toed, nearly circular paw print showing no claws, nearly as wide across as the back of my hand, made by a lightweight animal on big, soft feet, depressing the new snow by less than an inch.  What else could it be? 

Closer to the river I found mustelid tracks, about two inches wide, fisher, I'd guess; too big to be mink, too small to be otter, and leading down to the river where, oh my! some fresh drops of blood!  Then ooh! look at that! a chunk of something covered with hair!  Then Oh my God! as I raised my eyes to the ice-covered river to see this ravaged carcass,  splayed out in the middle of the bay.

At first I thought, hmm, must be coyotes brought this deer down.  But I didn't see any signs of a chase and attack.  What I did see was a human snowshoe trail and the imprint of a laden sled being hauled to the site, and then I remembered.  Naturalists from Moreau Lake State Park had told me they'd hauled a deer carcass out on the ice to attract bald eagles (the park keeps a count of these wintering raptors).  Sure enough, there were signs of huge birds landing on the snow-covered ice.  Lots of other tracks, too.  Here was a smorgasbord laid out for all the carnivores that haunt this always amazing stretch of woods and water. 

2 comments:

John W. Wall said...

Interesting find. Makes me envious of your excellent tracking conditions. Weird to see the carcass splayed out like that, still so intact. I suppose the naturalists opened it up to give the eagles a "wing up" on the competition.

NatureGirl said...

Your eagle print is too cool! Pity you didn't have something in it for scale reference - it must be quite large.

I keep hoping to find a dead deer around on the ice (or in our neighborhood) and have it available for spying upon scavengers. I suspect not too many other folks, however, would appreciate it as much as I.