Dawn of the Deer, or My Own Private Body Farm…
This is an accounting of a deer-related incident that began in March and ends in May… As long as I can remember, we’ve had deer roaming through our yard, snacking on the yew bushes (sides, but not tops, alas) and leaving ‘deer berries’ on the lawn. We’ve never seen one killed, though, in our yard.
The following contains graphic content (no joke) with pictures and videos. Small children and sensitive folk should avoid. So if you’re looking for cute Bambi shots, nope, this is the wrong LJ entry to look at. Move along, move along…
NOTE: Photos/videos are clickable in case you don't want to see nature at work...
Details of the decedent:
Lengths are approximate based on the skeletal remains:
Female whitetail deer
Date: Zombie Bambi (reason for name disclosed further on) was attacked and killed by a pack of coyotes in the front yard in the early a.m. hours of March 11, 2008. A family member thought he’d heard something but I slept through the carnage…
Location: Northeast U.S. (tri-state region). Late winter. Temperatures high of 50, averaging in 20s/30s at night, thank goodness, or else the stench would have been… gross. We would have had this poor beast hauled away but when we called the town they said if it’s not on public property, basically, it’s not their problem. Pay a private contractor to haul away the carcass. WTF?! For the property taxes they soak us for??
This will be detailed and gory account, so if you’re not a fan of CSI or forensic shows, you won’t want to go any further. But hmm, if you watch Animal Planet shows, this will probably look like one of those ‘lions of Etosha’ shows… Anyway, I decided to photograph and videotape the progress (albeit with a tiny digital camera which in turn makes tiny digital movies) of what happens to an unmolested deer carcass left on a suburban lawn in the dead of winter (minus snow, as if we’ll ever seen that again at this rate).
You have been warned.
So, onward with the details.
DAY 1 - Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Approximately 2:00 a.m. Approximately 26 feet from the garage, a pack of coyotes took down a deer. There were scuff marks where the deer hooves dug into the gravel, but then 24 feet from there, the major attack occurred, leaving a pile of fur apparently torn from the belly area and bloodstains were evident on the grass. Another 20 feet was where the main disembowelment began. More hair, blood, and er, gory stomach content. Another ten feet, and that was where the deer went down for good. It was dragged in a semi-circle for 30 feet (we could see the drag mark of spilled blood/guts), where it ultimately lay about five feet from where wild grapevines provided shelter from other predators. These grapevines also run along a stonewall and trees, so anything in the yard fortunately cannot be seen from the road, which I suppose is good for anybody who decides to walk on the road. The coyotes basically carved out the abdominal cavity, peeled back and ate the flesh across the thoracic area (ribs) and that’s how I found the dear departed deer at approximately 7:15 a.m. that morning. Lovely. Just lovely.
Here’s a photo.
Closeup of the poor dead deer.
Well, there was going to be a video of the crime scene – actually, there is – but Photobucket won’t let it be loaded up, so, oh well.
7:30-ish p.m. That’s when I got home, as a family medical emergency occupied my entire day. So, went and checked the body. Despite the plethora of crows and vultures and whatnot I’ve seen in the area, no avian predators seemed to have noshed on poor Bambi. The head and limbs were intact, and the eyes were still there, staring mutely into the sky. Usually, the eyes are the first things to go.
8:30 p.m. Had to go out. When I returned, I got out of the car and it was dark, and that’s when I heard the hyena-like noises of the coyotes growling away in the backyard. I don’t think they were really that far away. I was about 30 feet from the garage door. I was thinking, no, they don’t attack people but I also did not want to scare them off. I learned earlier that day that coyotes do come back each night until they finish their kill.
11:30ish p.m. Had to take the dog out, so might as well check out the carcass. It was gone! Yes, er, uh, no. Darn. It had been dragged another 30 feet away from the driveway. The thoracic cavity had been gnawed into but wasn’t completely gone; the head was twisted back at a definitely impossible angle if the deer had still been alive. And the eyes were still there. One had glazed a teensy bit but the other was still brown.
Amazing what a day can do…
Sunlight illuminating the cleaned out thoracic cavity.
DAY 2 - Wednesday, March 12, 2008
7:00-ish a.m. I look out the bedroom window and Zombie Bambi has moved yet again, maybe another 25 feet and is (eek!) heading toward the front door. I have dubbed the dead deer Zombie Bambi because, as will become evident, the corpse does a lot of moving about during the nocturnal hours…. Anyway, wait, look, it’s a wolf, no a black coyote. Oh crap, it’s the neighbor’s dog and it’s gnawing on Zombie B’s leg! I rush outside with a leash, grab the dog, easily pull it off and return it to the owner down the road. I then informed them they should be careful with their dog, particularly at night and explained the deer slaughter in our yard. … Anyway, Zombie Bambi is now laying on her back (it was a doe); the entire thoracic cavity is cleaned out and you can see through the ground behind the neck. One front leg is splayed over the head (the top of the head is against ground) like an actress from the old silent movies before she’d pass out. One hind leg is bent up toward the abdominal cavity. The head remains untouched; eyes are intact, as is the tongue, which has been half-protruding in a ghoulish pose from the mouth since death.
6:00-ish p.m. Came home from work and found out that the turkey vultures had been poking around during the day. It’s pretty hard to tell if they ate much of anything, except that the tongue is now gone. Eyes remain and now the gutted remains are spread-eagled as if the buzzards rearranged the limbs to get to some good bits of meat. However, and from an artistic point of view, the setting sunlight streaming in through the red membrane around the rib cage was, in an odd sense, beautiful.
A hawk surveys the yard.
11:00 p.m. Took dog out for nightly business. Zombie Bambi has moved another 25 feet or so has been flipped over so the one side of skin still remaining is on top and the head is still intact, and it lies there looking not bad, at least from the neck up. One front leg looks like it’s been detached.
DAY 3 - Thursday, March 13, 2008
6:30 a.m. Bambi has moved another 25 feet or so (at this moment, from point of attack until 8:30 p.m. on the 13th, the deer has traveled about 150 feet dead, and most of that was while it was dead). And at last, the head has been attacked. It’s been chewed down to the bone. In fact, the front area of the nose is chewed off. Eyes are gone. No sign of the ears or fur. Instead of being splayed out, now the legs are almost tucked neatly around the ribcage and spine. Just think, about 48 hours ago or less, this was an adult, perhaps 2-3 years old judging by teeth, approximately 100-pound doe.
6:30 p.m. The deer hasn’t moved, but oh hey, I found the ears scattered on the lawn. Guess they’re not that edible, although maybe something will eat them later. I am theorizing that the legs will be the last to go, as maybe the coyotes will come back for some deer-sticks to gnaw on in order to get to the marrow. I can hope. I did notice an odd stench around the body… could be decay setting in, or the coyotes could have urinated around the carcass to mark their territory. [Nope, it’s purification]
11:00 p.m. Took dog out again. Armed with two flashlights (one to light up, one to beat off critters should the need arise, as yes, I have watched too many horror movies) and camera, checked out the carcass. Hmm, didn’t move, nothing miss.
DAY 4 - Friday, March 14, 2008
3:00 a.m. I didn’t hear it, but family member did. A deer showed up in the front yard around this time and made a horrible ruckus, braying away for like 15 minutes. Maybe deer do mourn their dead, or get ticked off. Family member went outside but no sign of deer or coyotes or another attack. It’s possible the deer encountered a coyote and went after it.
5:30 a.m. Bambi has moved 30 back the way it came, now it’s more centered in the lawn; however, the ribcage is noticeably diminished and the front legs are gone and it looks like maybe one or 1-1/2 hind legs remain, and there’s very little hair. The body is bent backwards in a semi-circle. And they predict rain today but we’re not moving it until the weekend as it’s just too much work. And maybe the coyotes will polish it off tonight…
Down to the bone.
7:30 a.m. Check the deer. Not much difference, but then went for a walk around the house and found a leg in the backyard. Zombie Bambi is being scattered.
6:00 p.m. No rain. Good. I can do some cleanup. Donned some surgical gloves and got a plastic grocery bag, and went around the yard picking up the bits and pieces of poor Bambi that were scattered everywhere. Well, it was the hair that was scattered far and wide, particularly hair with flesh attached. The grotty pile of organs of some kind - which was turning dark brown this morning - was scattered about and I’d say ¾ of it was gone. Thank you, turkey vultures!
I also picked up leg #1 in the back yard, and it seemed rather light and very flexible since rigor mortis was long gone. I found a patch in the woodsy area in back and laid it down there. Put leg #2 from the front yard next to it. Finished picking up bits, found a clavicle, both ears, and along with furry bits, put those with the legs. Sorta figured poor Bambi should rest in peace in one area, with hopefully the pieces mostly together.
The skeleton and bits of flesh, fur and sinew is pretty slim pickings and looks like, so either tomorrow or Sunday I’ll just don some more surgical gloves and I think I can just pick it up with both hands and carefully (very carefully) bring it to its final resting place in the back yard area.
Leg #4 is gone.
11:00 p.m. Yup, drag out dog, then check Bambi on the front yard, and the ‘grave’ in the back. Remains the same.
DAY 5 - Saturday, March 15, 2008
3:00 a.m. Undisturbed. Dog had to go out so took a peek.
9:00 a.m. ‘Grave’ in back yard is unmolested, as is Bambi on the front yard.
12:00 p.m. Whoa, activity has taken place while I went out and ran errands. I happened to be upstairs and looked out the window and yes, a turkey vulture is having a snack! Poking all around the remain, ripping off what it can, tugging pretty hard at some points, and then after a while of viewing this “Vulture Vision” as I called it, it walked down the lawn, looking around and found some scattered entrails and proceeded to nosh on them. At that point a truck came up the driveway so the vulture took off, but apparently the daylight hours belong to the carrion eaters from the sky.
A turkey vulture having lunch.
So, Bambi’s head and neck, stretched out straight last night, are bent back toward the spine. The piece of fur skin (which looks like a perverse mink stole) is now detached from the body and about 10 yards away. The one hind leg is still tenaciously attached to the hip.
Turkey vulture dines on remains. The howling you hear halfway through is the dog (downstairs) wanting attention.
And this concludes in PART 2: