Saturday, January 02, 2010

Winter Scouting - CSI Critterville

Early in December I spent a wonderful day out scouting. The few inches of snow make tracking tracking critters using the area easy. Deer, Coyote, Turkey, Snowshoe Hare, Ravens and squirrels were the most common tracks.

I wondered into an area where I noticed an increasing number of Coyote tracks. The well used paths with variety of sizes indicated multiple dogs. The evening prior I was treated to long chorus of coyote songs by two separate packs, one unusually large group above me that I would guess had more than six members. The other group further down the hill sounded like no more than four.

As I followed their trails I began to suspected a kill may be in the area. After a short track I found a large area of flattened snow- much bigger than a typical bed.

There wasn't any obvious signs of a kill there though I suspect there may have been based on the concentration of Raven tracks. Any scrap that would surly have been gleaned.
A few yards later I found my first hard evidence - a doe sized spine/rib cage. Cougar kills I've found in the past were intact while the cat was feeding, Coyotes would come along later and tear it apart and scatter the remains. It looked to me like the Coyotes had discovered a kill.About ten meters from the spine section I found what looked like the kill site. There was a lot of blood including a depression where it pooled. I assume this is where the deer first succumb to the attack and where the feeding began.

Nearby were two other disturbed areas where the deer had been consumed, probably in separate parts based on fur color differences, intestinal contents (which were flattened by what looks like being rolled on) and the few small uneaten bits I could find. From what I observed I suspect was the larger section the carcass was further torn apart and dragged into other nearby feeding sites.

Not far from the Kill site, just outside the feeding areas I saw the Deer's last tracks and the spot I'm guessing it first came under attack. I backtracked and right up until deer was attacked it had meandered though the mixed woods and openings browsing as it went. The gait appeared healthy and based on the stomach contents at the kill/feeding sites, wasn't starving. Due to the suddenness of the attack and the short distance to the kill I suspect this Deer was killed by a Cat. Dogs who tend to run down their prey over long distances.

I didn't see any obvious cat tracks. The volume of Coyote tracks - virtual highways - could have obliterated them though. I also found two of what appears to be "fur balls", like what a cat hacks up.

Also there were areas that appear to me as "waiting areas" flattened snow, no blood, fur or bones with multiple beds in view of the kill site, as if the Yotes waited until the Cat left or had the numbers and nerve to drive it off.

I spent a few hours spiraling around looking for clues. What actually happened I will probably never now but it was fun trying to figure it out...

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