Living With Wildlife
By Barbara Corwin on Jun 16, 2009
Who knew that my fair city (Colorado Springs) and my county (Colorado's El Paso Country) each have departments dedicated to removing dead animal carcasses? Turns out, they remove such carcasses only from public streets and rights-of-way, not from private property. And who knew that there are four (four??) companies in my city that remove dead animal carcasses from private property?
I do know I live in the 'wilderness' (that from the man who came to remove the carcass :-). We are in the hills at the base of Pikes Peak, where developers built houses into animal habitat. Our 'yard' is about an acre of hillside that is mostly wild - grasses, yucca, prickly pear cactus, scrub oak, etc. Not a place to go barefoot in the summertime. And on a regular basis we have deer, fox, bears and even mountain lions in our yard.
But yesterday morning around 6:30am, I opened the garage door to leave for work and noticed about half a dozen magpies on the rocks in a bed by our front door. Magpies, for those unaware, are scavengers, one of nature's garbage collectors. I noticed two red strips on which they were feeding and walked closer to see if it was a snake.
Apparently there's a reason hunting takes skill because animals really do blend in with their surroundings. Lying on the rocks was a very young buck, with nubs showing on his head as the beginnings of antlers. Eyes wide open, ribs exposed, stomach hanging out, food for the magpies, quite dead. And then I noticed the blood - spread across the driveway - and a bloody paw print on the step to the front door.
The theory is coyotes. One animal I actually haven't seen in my yard. I've heard them. And heard about them. But not seen them. But the print was too small and not the right shape to be a mountain lion.
I mess with my teenage kids at dinner, asking them the stereotypical question, "what did you learn today?". On Sunday night, the older one started to chuckle after telling me that was a stupid question. I asked what was so funny, and he said very sheepishly, "I actually did learn something today". :-)
Yesterday I learned a lot. Some of which I could have lived without. I get the whole living-with-nature thing, I get the food chain, and I have come to believe that a scientist I heard last year might be right, that deer in general are simply "rats with antlers". But the dead young buck about five feet from my front door, and still-fresh, bright red blood all over the driveway indicating that the fight was quite recent, was all a bit eery.
And I understand in more than an intellectual way now why the Native Americans thanked the animals they had to kill for food.