26 January 2009

Hunting for deer skulls on a cold day


Yesterday, I went back to the Hoyles Mill Conservation Park to check up on the snails I had flagged back in November during our the day after Thanksgiving field trip.

The yellow signs posted all along the periphery of the park warned the visitors of "managed deer hunts". If they are hunting what lives in the park, that's not much of conservation, is it?


Obviously, the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is quite abundant around here. So, it wasn't too much of a surprise to run into some scattered deer bones soon after I entered the park.


I was excited when I also spotted the skull. Alas, its antlers had been chopped off, perhaps, by some bone-hungry scavengers. I decided it wasn't worth taking it home.


What was really surprising was to run into a 2nd skull a half an hour later. This one still had its antlers.


Just like the previous deer skull, this too had a strong sulfurous smell. Deer skin, bones, marrow or some other body part must have a high content of sulfur that gets released during decomposition. It is now soaking in a pan of hydrogen peroxide.

The left antler of this deer seems to have a malformation. Leave a comment if you can offer an explanation.


Did I say I had gone to the park to check up on snails? That will be the subject of tomorrow's post.


Michael said...

If they are hunting what lives in the park, that's not much of conservation, is it?

I think it depends on what you want to conserve. In areas where the large predators have been exterminated the deer population tends to grow very rapidly and a large number of hungry deer can be very destructive. Replacing the absent wolves and pumas with human hunters is a common solution to the problem. Most people seem to be more comfortable with hunters than with re-introducing a wolf pack.

xoggoth said...

I like collecting skulls but my collection is very small. I frequently go running through the woods round here and fallow deer are quite abundant, I often see little groups running off, but never come across any remains. Where do dead animals go? It's a mystery.

Coyote said...

It is unlikely that an animal about to die would do so close to a running/hiking path. The only bones and skeletons I've ever found were off the trails in the brush, where running or even just walking are difficult.


Coyote makes a good point. It's always been the same in my experience unless a trail happens to be one that the deer also use.