Deer cemeteries on Sayéik, spirit helper (Douglas Island)
Back in mid-May, I reported on a motion-camera study Steve Merli and I have been conducting at deer carcasses. I titled that page Decomposition on motion-cams: phases 1&2, This is a follow-up report, continuing the story of a buck and doe who melted back into the soil over the course of 4 months.
Phase 1: Deer ripe but intact. Ravens and eagles penetrate orifices and areas of thinner skin
Phase 2: A bruin (or wolf pack) camps out, consuming most of the deer in a day or two.
Phase 3: Smaller birds and mammals consume scraps too small to interest alpha bears.
Phase 4: FBIs (fungi, bacteria & insects) return the carcass to soil.
Back when there was still snow for tracking, we found plenty of wolf sign in the neighborhood. But our cameras never filmed a wolf at either carcass site. How come?
In the 6 minute slideshow for phases 1&2, I was intentionally non-committal as to sex of a medium-sized bear who first claimed our buck carcass (which by the way was probably a spike; not a nubbin). After uploading, I reviewed a hunter-education manual (ADFG) and video (Wyoming game department) on clues to size and sex of bears. It seemed that urination posture was one of the more definitive indicators: females peeing down or rearward vs males who aim forward.
Based on that, I mistakenly suggested that the buck-carcass claimer was female. Turns out, pee-posture is context-dependent. A possible rationale, albeit speculative, is laid out in this 9-minute sequel:
You can’t watch hundreds of motioncam carcass videos without developing deep appreciation for these little sylvan cemeteries. Nearly every critter in the forest comes by to pay its respects. But unlike human shrines, aloof and inviolate, these trophic hotspots seethe with life. They’re all things to all species: bedroom, latrine, bank, nursery, dining room, hunting ground, and scene of 6-legged orgy. By night, bats strafe the aerial hatch, and shrews gorge their weight in blowfly larvae.
Salmon streams are rather dependable summer meccas. Year after year, entitled piscivores converge. Cervid funerals are more stochastic—capricious hundred-pound easter eggs. Ground is stunned by serendipity when a deer lies down for the last time.