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. 


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.