Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Most Mysterious Murder

March has not changed one bit...there are always murders of various victims on the farm during this month. Usually the devious deeds result from the 'resident serial murders' a.k.a. barn cats however this time I was most disturbed at what lied on the back porch after letting Sam in from his nightly 'bathroom break'.

Our evening was spent at the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science awards dinner in which a relative was the keynote speaker.  Lovely evening, despite the rain.  All seemed well. Upon our return, Nugget, Little Bear, and Coty were very wet but happy to see us.  After their dinner, Sam was let out as he does not wear a shock collar due to extreme fear of anything around his neck. Sammy is scared of many things including my camera however only in the past year has he began to accept the strange flash of light accompanied by weird clicking noises.  My beautiful black lab was only out in the dark night  for 10 minutes.  Something accompanied him upon his return, something most disturbing and distressful.  It was promptly dropped on the mat when Sam rushed into the kitchen.  No bones are allowed in this house and Sam knew the rules.
This bone is not of the bovine type whatsoever and certainly did not resemble the worn and hollowed stocking stuffers they received in December!  This bone had a flat portion and a tendril of flesh remained attached with a red spot on the tip signifying a fresh kill.  'What the ....?'  is all I could think.  Sam stays in while we are gone.  The other dogs cannot and do not dare get near the painful and shocking borders.  So many questions, so many visuals swirled in my poor brain and to make it worse, it was late at night, raining, and of course the huge flashlight wouldn't work so I had to wait until morning to look for the carcass.  I googled deer anatomy and found the type of bone immediately.  Shoulder area.

The good husband quickly told me it could be turkey or geese, but no way.  I asked him to remember what I do each November and December....cook a turkey and of all people, I would know what type of bones belong to fowl.  This bone was too big and flat.  Coyotes were my first thought but I am out at night and do not hear their howls. Besides, there would be no bones left and certainly Sammy wouldn't be able to access it.  Stray dogs?  Possibly but I would think no meat would be left if a hungry canine got a hold of a deer and it would stay and guard the kill which Sammy would not dare defy it.  The stray beagles were shot by a hunter in December and I have not heard or seen evidence of stray dogs for quite some time now.  Had a deer tempted our dogs and not have been quick enough to escape?  So far, they all have won at 'Tease the Dog' game.  Was it my poor 'Limp'?  Her front left leg just dangles but she still can run though she hobbles horribly at the walk and trot.  I haven't seen her for two days and this was my worse fear.  Could it be Bossy Boy or Patty Pat?  They currently hate eachother waging war against eachother's bodies. Now that Bossy's Boy lost his beautiful rack, Patty Pat attacks him all the more.  The 'hooving' is very hard and is it possible to shatter a spine during these ferocious fights?  My corn yard is rated R for violence!

I got up at dawn but began to dread the deed, so I procrastinated until after 10 am to walk the woods.  The rain was steady.  Sam does not go across the tracks, near the barn or up the lane.  He prefers the woods so I began fighting leafless briars and slippery mud to find the impossible.  Two hours passed.  I became quite discouraged, not understanding why there was no smell, and no remains.  As always I am blessed with good thoughts when I  become desperate.  Hmmm, who up there is helping this mere mortal today? Something told me to stay near the house and search the steep hill that was cleared but filled with weeds.  I found a gift!  I found Tanner's left antlers!  So cute for a such a young buck.  A baby four point and quite pretty for a 1.5 year old. (hmmm, now I am not sure those were Tanners as I post the pics...) I checked the well where I rescued Nub, it was still safely covered.  I climbed up the right side of the hill above the big Sycamore.  Sammy does not come home with burrs or weeds stuck on his coat so I thought he might take a wide deer path and decided to enter a steep one that lowered into a small creek. Thick underbrush slowed my steps as the path narrowed and the cardinals quietly darted around the branches wondering why I was invading their home.  This is impossible, I was thinking.  Still nothing and those painful thorns refused to stop grabbing at my knit hat causing me to utter obscenties at things that do not understand english! : ~)  I saw a worn spot on a tree and wondered if I could find any more antlers so I trekked up the steep hill a little ways. With absolutely no hesitation and no thought an automatic sound full of surprise and shock erupted from my vocal chords.  I found it...and it didn't really smell. 

A 'baby'...what I call a baby anyways.  Assuming it was born in June or July, the remains of an 8 month old deer lie sprawled in an abnormal position.  The brain and neck were cleaned however, flesh remained in the interior.  To me that was strange but with more thought I think I figured it out.  Sam.  The prettiest black lab with the sleek luxurious black coat and the cutest puppy like personality killed one of my deer.  I found the struggle spot a few feet away.  The brush and ground showed a lot of white hair.  He probably grabbed the neck to break it. 
Two or three days ago it was nice out.  Two or three days ago I remember the 'bad' husband forgot to get Sam back in allowing for our black varmint to stay out unattended for over an hour with him not being in the yard with the other dogs.  Two or three days ago one of my fawns lost its life because we were negligent.  It hurts.  But I deserve the pain.  Life is precious no matter who's life has been taken.  And the sad part is, I am not sure who's fawn it is.  Not Brownie's bunch.  I believe it belongs to one of the shy Long Tails.  That herd of does come and go and are so skittish it is difficult to study them.  Mystery solved but March's murderous ways are not over if the past dictates the future. And come to think of it, May wasn't much better.
p.s. This is a link to Camera Critters so my story could be seen by fellow animal lovers who love photography!  Check them out!

21 comments:

eileeninmd said...

WOW, what a story. It is hard to believe a lab would hurt even a flea. I've have had three labs and the most they would do is chase an animal.

Feral Female said...

Very cool entry! My hubby knew instantly what kind of bone that was.

Willard said...

Interesting that you found the antlers. I have only found two from the deer that I frequently photograph. In 2008 a small buck came in with one antler missing and while he was there the other vanished and I found it. I found one antler this past December from the 8pt that I featured frequently on my blog, but have yet to find the other.

As to the kill, I would have to look at the scene and then could not be sure, but this looks like it has been done awhile and there is a high likelihood that your dog found the carcass and brought part of it back. It is almost picked too clean for a dog, coyote, etc. to have done it all. It is likely it has been picked at by scavengers such as buzzards. It is hard say for sure what killed the animal, but it could be violent death or it could be from sickness or winter stress.

I saw a red-tailed hawk eating a young deer last winter that was lying by the edge of a meadow. I had seen this deer frequently and it was quite small and did not look to be in the best health. A close examination revealed that the hawk had likely not killed it as it was not damaged in a vital area. Within a few days the carcass looked much like the one in your photos.

Linda said...

This sounds like a Sherlock Holmes mystery. (I'm a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes tales). I think you solved it! Did you wear your cap and smoke your pipe on your adventure?

BTW, I don't think I'd want to meet Sam out in your woods. He sounds like quite the guard dog. :)

Kritter Keeper said...

willard, there was a lot of meat inside that i didn't think most readers would want to view... my black jack would kill fawns and my dogs go after other dogs...coty went after the throat of 'patches' a female i wanted to keep...that is why i thought sam was the culprit and it being so close to the house and just up the hill from the corn yard. i don't see any distressed deer here...wish you could come be my deer csi! :)

Coy said...

Hi,
I noticed you comments on Willard blog and had to scoot over to see the story. I must agree with Willard, the pic looks like that of an old kill. In my experience a deer that died even a couple of months ago in winter would appear much as this one does. Remember the cold weather will keep the meat pretty much preserved.

If Sam did kill this deer he did the deed quite some time ago but I certainly would not blame him on this evidence. This deer could easily have been injured during the hunting season, died later and was frozen and covered with snow for some time.

AJ-OAKS said...

Wow, that was an intriguing journey. Very sad about the young deer. :( You would make a great detective!

Oskar said...

I guess that life in the country...

Kritter Keeper said...

thanks everyone for your comments! coy, thank you for reiterating what willard says...you guys are out there more than i so you problably are right... i won't blame sammy anymore, but he and big black jack used to hunt together and jack has killed fawns before. and yes, oskar that is life in the country...unfortunately!

Rural Rambler said...

Kritter Keeper we have had some odd creepy deaths in our Missouree part of the country this past week. Sort of left me sad and unsettled. Somehow knowing that I am not alone with this freakish stuff makes me feel a little easier.

Coy said...

The deer would have been preserved by the winter temps.

As long as the meat was not directly exposed to the air it would stay pink/red. Exposure to oxygen is what turns meat brown. The color you are seeing is from meat that was freshly exposed by Sam tearing at the carcass.

From the condition of the deer in the picture I would bet on this deer having been dead for 1-3 months. Dogs certainly can kill deer, even healthy adults, but this is not the case here, unless he did the deed a considerable time ago.

Take care,

Coy said...

Oops, I missed you other question. My primary wildlife lens is the Canon 100-400mm L.

City girl turned Country Girl said...

I am in total agreement with the others on this, that deer has been dead for a few months! I think Sam is in the clear on this!!

Peggy said...

I don't think Sam killed the little deer but its still sad to have lost one of your little ones.

Les said...

Cuz, I agree. That's definitely not a fresh kill. Sam just found it and dragged home a treasure.

JC said...

I don't think your dog did this.
I am sorry the baby died though.
I get deer at my beach place and a few days ago there was a young one in my front yard. Haven't seen a deer in my yard in years.

Leslie said...

I am glad you aren't blaming Sammy anymore. I do not know Sammy but I think he did not kill the deer. If he had killed it and eaten fresh meat he would have surely had blood on him. He probably smelled the dead deer from the house and that is how he found it. There are so many different ways the deer could have died and then was shifted around into the unnatural position by the wild animals that wanted a taste. I am sorry this happened.

Granny Sue said...

I agree with the others--this is an old carcass, and your dog, like most labs will do, found a new toy to drag home.

Labs, however, can and will kill. We had a beautiful lab that killed a small pig, for no reason we could find except for the excitement of chasing it. We heard the ruckus and ran down and saw her at it. It broke my heart because we'd had her for several years. But on a farm there is no place for a livestock-killing dog, so we had to find her a new home.

Flat Creek Farm said...

Oh no! I followed the story to the very end. Great detective work, but I'm glad Sammy isn't a suspect in this murder any longer :) I know it can and does happen though. A few years ago, I blamed the neighbor's rescued dogs (which were allowed to wander 24/7, and were NOT really taken care of properly... rescued? not really, but I digress!). Anyhow, the neighbor's "rescues" may have been to blame in the brutal killing of my bottle calf "Angel" a few years ago. Especially where there's a pack, there can be trouble.

Willard said...

I'm sorry I didn't get back to you sooner about your questions.

As to the corn, I know that game officials say that it can contribute to death, but I think that in most if not all cases this is only when a deer would go from eating a diet based entirely on grass and browse to gorging on a large source of corn such as a truckload that was dumped. It is also likely that an animal that was sick or starving would not be saved by eating the corn, but would die and if found nearby the death might be blamed on the corn when in fact it did not cause it at all.

As for limpy, she has a good chance of survival as I have seen deer with severely injured legs survive for years, but one never knows.

For an interesting, but gruesome post about a similar problem go to Coy's Blog Country Captures by copying and pasting the following link in your address bar as that will take you to the exact post.
http://countrycaptures.blogspot.com/2010/01/time-to-heal.html

Willard said...

Continued:
The deer in this instance, almost completely healed and was actually partially using the leg again, but the stress of the wound pulled her system down enough that one day I noticed that while she was still eating, she was skin and bones so as to speak and then one day she didn't show up. I have not yet found her body but I assume she died.

I also read your comment about Daly and Vincent. I have heard them and they do an exceptional job. (They were on one of the Gaither Homecoming shows and I enjoyed them very much)