Friday, January 28, 2005

Murder Mystery

Last winter I found evidence of 11 rabbit kills by the foxes just in the little area where I walk. This year nothing until yesterday. I was beginning to worry a little about the foxes, and I didn't want them to come into the yard and take our resident rabbit (last seen just before sunrise this morning!). Then, I found the body pictured below, cached under a little spruce in the plantation in the field. What you can't see in the picture is that this rabbit has no head. I didn't want to disturb it too much and given the light, I couldn't get a picture that shows this, so you'll have to take my word for it.

There was a line of fox tracks going by the spot, and a small disturbance just in front of the carcass, but no signs that the rabbit was killed there, or indeed anywhere else I went yesterday. Headlessness is a feature of rabbit carcasses I observed a couple of times last year. Perhaps the head is the best bit, so consumed first. Seems odd though--all that skull to get through. Maybe it makes the rabbit easier to carry--it is pretty clear that this one, like others I've seen, was carried from elsewhere to rest here.

Conditions are still too cold for clear tracks, but I make a couple of what I hope are reasonable assumptions that lead me to the conclusion that this is a fox kill, not coyote or fisher or any of the rest that enjoy rabbit. Not fisher because I haven't seen any fisher tracks out there this year. Not coyote because there's a body. Coyotes in winter tend to eat rabbits where they find them. Then all I find is the tracks and a little blood and fur in the snow. (Not bird of prey for the same reason--I wouldn't expect any of them to leave a body in a location such as this one.) Foxes cache rabbits or part thereof, and come back for them later. Often, they bury them in snow. This cache is a little casual--I found it easily. (Though another winter I did find half a rabbit cached in an old boot track in the snow of mine. So different from the time I found the tracks of a coyote apparently reluctant to even cross an old set of my tracks.) Foxes are also daintier eaters than coyotes. When they do eat a rabbit fresh, they leave the stomach and intestines strewn about.

Last night was colder than forecast (-28 C), and the cold persists, but if it warms up a little later on, I'll go out and check on the body.

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