Nature’s Clean-Up Crew

My son Michael went bow hunting last evening in our lower fields along the stream.  Just before dark he shot a large, mature doe, and then waited a few minutes to climb down from the stand and find the deer.  He followed where he saw the deer walk, but lost the blood trail.  Now its pitch dark and he invited a friend over, and together they searched the riparian woods to no avail.


Mike woke up at 6:00 AM and went to find the animal, and within minutes he found the deer, only 150-feet away from his stand.  The deer walked in the stream and died in the water, and hence the lost blood trail.  In an 8-hour period from 10:00 PM through 6:00 AM some animal or animals had already eaten out the entire center of the carcass.  My wife has seen a coyote near our chicken coop, and we were thinking that possibly coyote, raccoon and/or fox fed on the fresh kill.  The portion of stream that Mike found the deer has a thick buffer of Setaria (foxtail millet) on one side of the creek.


Being interested in what may be feeding on the deer, I decided to walk down to the site and maybe install a Reconyx infrared motion detector camera, and leave it up and running for a few days.  When I got near the kill, I flushed 15-plus vultures from a black walnut tree growing over the bank.


Fish were lined-up along the carcass and feeding on the flesh.  I could actually distinguish fallfish, rosyside dace and smallmouth bass.  Schools of fish came and went in waves.  A snapping turtle was feasting on the carcass, yanking and ripping out large sections of meat.  I’d bet that a snapper can smell a meal downstream, and follow the water-carried scent to the source.


So what went from the center eaten by dawn, turned into the entire side of the animal de-boned by a combination of bird, fish and reptile by late afternoon.  I call that the “daytime clean-up crew.”  I wonder what critters will come through this evening?