Some of you might find this disturbing, so be forewarned.
Yesterday, a pair of young ladies brought in a find from their snowshoe trek around our trails. They knew it was "bones," but beyond that they had no idea. It was packed with snow, but I could tell immediately that it was a deer's skull: the teeth were prominently exposed at the edge of the snowball. Deer do not have incisors on the upper jaw, only molars, so identifying a deer skull is very easy to do. They said there were no other bones around - just this one. I speculated that it might've been carried to the location where they found it by a coyote, who might've been snacking on it.
I put the whole package in the sink in our maintenance closet to melt, and promptly forgot about it until this morning. Because there's still enough flesh on it, I've placed it out on the back deck for the birds to clean, if they so desire.
I am fascinated by just how fresh this skull looks. Normally when one finds skulls (or bones) in the woods, they have been pretty well stripped clean by various carnivores, omnivores and carrion eaters. Scavengers are at their prime when death is around. From birds to small mammals, and in the summer assorted insects, bones are cleaned pretty quickly. The only thing I can guess from the state of this skull is that the deer died (or was killed) fairly recently.
Now, any good field biologist who has studied deer would probably have no difficulty aging this animal. This is done by an examination of the teeth. I've never done it, so I'm not sure what to look for. Our maintenance man, however, probably does have this skill, having worked formerly at the wildlife research station next door (and one of their specialties is deer). I'll have to ask him the next time I see him.
While I was arranging the skull on the deck and snapping is picture, my friend the untidy chickadee flew in to grab a few mouthfuls of frozen bacon fat from the suet feeder. I wonder why this bird's feathers are in such bad condition. If there are any bird experts out there who wish to render an opinion, please do.