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Puzzling Kill Site

2-22-16  meadow vole remains 027
Close examination of the bits of fur scattered over a 15-inch-diameter patch of snow reveals that the animal to whom the fur belonged was very small and would have appeared brown to an observer. (The hairs are black, but they have a brown tip.) This eliminates gray/black shrews and moles, leaving a white-footed mouse (due to habitat) or a species of vole (most likely meadow vole) as the victim. Striped skunk tracks led to the remains of this rodent, which is not surprising, as mice (Peromyscus sp.) and voles (Microtus sp.) are high on their list of preferred vertebrates. What is puzzling is why the fur wasnโ€™t consumed and why so many of the internal organs (top of photo) were among the discarded fur. A skunk would neither skin nor eviscerate its prey. Explanations welcome!

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26 responses

  1. Jim Lafley

    It might have been a shrew kill site that was investigated by a skunk after the fact.

    March 2, 2016 at 8:14 am

  2. Marie Hanson

    Perhaps a weasel had a snack after a skunk investigated the hole. Weasels, according to my research, will skin rodents and sometimes leave organs if enough food is available.

    March 2, 2016 at 8:24 am

  3. Guy Stoye

    Powdery snow surface might have shown wing and/or talon marks of a hawk. With no trace of either, my guess would still be a hawk.

    March 2, 2016 at 8:31 am

  4. susan hunter

    My cat never eats the internal organs! He disects the rodents and leaves the digestive track on the door mat. ugh!

    March 2, 2016 at 8:31 am

    • April

      I was also thinking a cat. They are so random and cruel. But lovable.

      March 2, 2016 at 8:44 am

      • April

        But no cat footprints it seems.

        March 2, 2016 at 8:46 am

  5. Hobbit? Pixie? Fastidious fisher?

    March 2, 2016 at 8:49 am

  6. My guess is hawk … maybe started to eat but was disturbed leaving entrails behind as it flew away? Nothing like starting the day with Nature Forensics!

    March 2, 2016 at 9:02 am

  7. Kathy Schillemat

    picky eater.

    March 2, 2016 at 9:02 am

  8. Any wing marks? Could be owl or other raptor, something that pulls prey apart on the ground at kill site rather than carry it away.

    March 2, 2016 at 9:53 am

    • No wing marks. No tracks other than skunk.

      March 2, 2016 at 10:30 am

  9. Great puzzle and helpful thoughts. I found a vole last month whose head was missing and belly ripped open but all organs, skin, and fur were intact. There was mink scat nearby. It was in the middle of a heavily used trail at Great Meadows refuge, so I thought either the mink was disturbed during eating or amply full.

    March 2, 2016 at 10:18 am

    • Your find is fascinating as well, Corrie. If the body had been there, missing the head, I might have surmised weasel/mink. Even though we don’t know exactly what transpired, it’s certainly fun to find these stories, isn’t it?

      March 2, 2016 at 10:31 am

  10. My guess would be a hawk pulled the mouse apart.

    March 2, 2016 at 10:50 am

  11. Rob Anderegg

    Marital dispute …

    March 2, 2016 at 10:51 am

  12. This looks like the work of the infamous Pepe’ Le Pew!
    Could it be close to mating season and he has concerns of his malodorous odors becoming that much more conspicuous?
    As in a case of bad breath? ๐Ÿ™‚
    Bill… WGF Studio53@Etsy.com

    March 2, 2016 at 11:00 am

  13. Treah Pichette

    Domestic cat??

    March 2, 2016 at 11:46 am

  14. david putnam

    The skunk was plucked by an owl mid-meal?

    March 2, 2016 at 12:55 pm

  15. I was going to say cat, too, because I had one that skinned his mice and never ate innards. Kills always looked like this (before fellow cats would finish it up).ust like this. But you have cat no tracks . . .

    March 2, 2016 at 1:40 pm

  16. Cindy

    If cold enough the snow might be too frozen to leave prints of a light weight animal or bird at the time of the killing.

    March 2, 2016 at 2:33 pm

  17. juliezickefoose

    ๐Ÿ™‚ My first guess would be a picky and not so hungry skunk, since you found the tracks. However the fur pulled off and the discarded digestive tract really suggests screech owl. Wondering if one could have made the kill, eaten the vole, then the scene might have been investigated later by a skunk. Love these little mysteries! Coming to you courtesy Kathie F. Nice blog!

    March 9, 2016 at 8:35 am

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