Death Cycle Part 4: Dentistry

A crow was eating the squirrel an hour after we put it atop the shed. It seemed to work mostly at the head. From indoors, we saw it pull out gobbets. We took photos through the windows, since we knew opening the door would probably scare the crows away. Eventually Griffin and I tried to sneak outside for better pictures. We went out the front door, which was on the far side of the house from the carcass, and along a row of pines my kids call Mushroom Pass, but we weren't sneaky enough. As we approached, the crow hopped up to the highest part of the shed's roof, then swung casually away. I never got a clear shot.

On closer look, we could see three gobbets of flesh, each about an inch across, littering the shed roof. The squirrel carcass had been pulled around to a different angle. We had a good look at its bloody face. We still didn't see any real damage, though the gobbets made it clear that some had been done. While the crow was eating, I had the impression it might be digging in through the mouth, avoiding the difficult job of breaking the hide. A crow is lousy at tearing hide, and in fact will sometimes guide a bigger scavenger to a carcass so it will do that work and leave the crow some scraps.

A crow swung by about 20 feet up as we stood near the shed, as if checking to see whether we'd gone. We heard another crow calling, irritably as it seemed to me, apparently in communication with the first. I was afraid our presence might contaminate the scene, make the crows reluctant to return even after we'd left. On the other hand, I've seen crows standing on the same deer carcass beside a bald eagle, so they aren't exactly timid. I also recall a time when Beckett left his sandwich on a picnic table. He noticed crows nibbling at it, so he chased them off, waving his arms and screaming. While he was telling Tracy about it a moment later, she saw the crows a few feet behind him, carrying the slices of bread away.

Later on, I found that those morsels of flesh extracted by the crow had dried a bit. One remained a mere vague lump, but the other two were now recognizable. Both were parts of jaws, lined with little molars. One of them had a big rodent incisor far forward of the molars, with a characteristic rodent gap where many mammals would have a canine tooth.

Next: The Nocturnal Scavengers.



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