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Monday, December 11, 2006

Call of the Wild

Yesterday we saw Common Ravens and American Crows congregating in an area out on our pond. We rounded a corner in our field to get a better look and saw they were on a deer carcass on the ice. We speculated on what killed the deer. Was it a hunter, a fall on the ice, a coyote, or something else? The ice was not solidly frozen and walking on it could be treacherous for human, coyote, and even deer. We felt sorry for the deer but realized the bounty it had become for the wild creatures that live here.

Last night, while inside our home, we heard coyote noises and went outside on our deck to listen. There were coyote howls, yelps and excited barking coming from the direction of the carcass. We guessed there were at least 3 coyotes, maybe more. In winter, coyotes can live in packs of 3-7 members; the pack consists of a mated pair and their offspring of various ages. The leader of the pack can be a male or female. We have studied coyotes and written about them in our Stokes Guide To Animal Tracking and Behavior. The coyote chorus lasted for several minutes, then silence. We wondered what they would do with the carcass. Would they move it, consume it all, cache it? Warmer temperatures predicted for the coming days could melt the ice; opportunity for scavangers is now.

This morning as we walked out to the field with our scope, ravens and crows were calling and flying about. Then an immature Bald Eagle flew right across our cove. Wow! Word travels fast among those that dine on carrion.

We set up the scope and saw the carcass was still there, but looking diminished. Our local crows were milling about and cawing at a raven flying over. They may be trying to defend it a bit from the ravens.

It is exciting to live in a rural area where there are big, wild animals and see how drama and survival plays out in their lives. Wild predator/prey scenarios occur in supposedly "tame" suburban areas in many parts of the country, but they are often hidden by night or woods and are away from people's consciousness.

Here, for us, it is very real and on our minds. We wonder what will happen tonight.

The photo was digiscoped by holding my Canon Powershot A620 up to our Stokes Sandpiper 65 mm Scope. It was gray and overcast and they were far away, not good digiscoping conditions, but enough to capture something of the scene.

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