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Dec 06

Deep thoughts

Fawn head

When pondering the episode of the dead turkey vulture in the driveway, it is difficult to avoid the central question: why aren’t there dead turkey vultures galore all over the place?

I ask because the atmosphere above Dreadful Acres is pretty thick with these birds. Most days you can’t even see the sky for all the swirling and sworling vultures. Their population must number in the gazillions. Furthermore, my suspicion is that they don’t live forever. So, what happens to all the dead ones?

For that matter, where are all the deceased black vultures? Regular turkey corpses? Recent Great Blue Herons? And what about all the mammals? There are dead deer all the time (encrusted, of course, with live vultures), but they are the exception. I can’t remember the last time I saw a deceased armadillo that was not the result of vehicular dillocide.

Why isn’t the countryside positively riddled with rotting carcasses? This isn’t Disneyland, for crying out loud. It’s Savage Death Island!

And don’t say “the vultures get’em” because even vultures leave the bones, and it’s not like there’s a crap-ton of porcupine skeletons littering the horizon.

______________________
Photo: the dead deer head Bert was carrying around for a while. He wouldn’t trade it for anything less than half a chicken.

21 comments

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  1. Pinko Punko

    Maybe they just live on their dead brethren and sistren? What it it is an entirely closed circle? This raises the question of how did we get vultures without vultures for them to eat. Perhaps until recently they dined on twinkies and ding dongs?

  2. Leauxra

    Bugs, beetles, little gnawing things. And the bones get soft when they’ve been in the ground a while (WHAT? I watch crime TV shows. I’m not a serial killer or anything. Lots of people know this stuff).

    I once saw a coyote chewing on what looked like a femur. I think it was a deer part. But the coyote had chewed through the bone, and was sitting with the joint between his paws, and chewing on the end. I think he was actually eating it.

  3. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Not everything goes West (my grandpa’s euphemism for kicking the bucket) at the same time.

    It’s the law of the jungle, baby. If you live in the treetops, you gotta swing. That which once ate must eventually be eaten. All the microbial shit gets in on the act, too. Mercifully, a lot of it goes on beyond the reach of prying eyes.

  4. TotallyDorkin

    Animals don’t die out in the open. It’s friggin dangerous out there.

  5. Ron Sullivan

    Ever read about The Body Farm in (I think) Tennessee? Forensic bug-n-germy-thingology. Informative if you’re in the mood for it.

    Oh—deer and rodents gnaw bones down to nothing, too. Nextdoor neighbor has an cervid (Um IIRC fallow deer? I forget) skull hanging on her back fence, and if I’ve got a window open or I’m outside I can hear the damned fox squirrels gnawing on it every fuckin day. There’s a lot less of it than there was a few years ago. She complains but doesn’t take it inside, probably because it looks so nifty hanging next to her staghorn ferns.

  6. ew_nc

    Think how much real estate would be freed up if we let vultures take care of human carcasses as well. To me that’s preferable to slowing rotting in a sealed box.

  7. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    Think how much real estate would be freed up if we let vultures take care of human carcasses as well. To me that’s preferable to slowing rotting in a sealed box.

    Agreed, but then again, I can’t help thinking about how unsettling it would be to be strolling along a country lane, sipping an orange Fanta, when, whups! Stinking, semi-devoured human corpse with eyes pecked out at 1 o’clock!

  8. gingerest

    If the bones are small or broken down enough, vultures will gulp them down and barf or pellet them out later.

  9. TwissB

    Or, to put it more mildly, why aren’t there more derelict birds’ nests to be seen clinging to those bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang. There would be a lot more victims of vehicular dillocide if Jim Franklin hadn’t taught the brighter ones to soar grandly over the highway from shoulder to shoulder.

  10. TwissB

    And there would be a lot more victims of vehicular dillocide if Jim Franklin hadn’t taught the smarter ones to soar grandly over the highway from shoulder to shoulder.

  11. TwissB

    Inadvertent repeat . Computer alternates hunt and peck with hide and seek.

  12. H.E. Wolf

    “Think how much real estate would be freed up if we let vultures take care of human carcasses as well. To me that’s preferable to slowing rotting in a sealed box.”

    Zoroastrianism for the win?

  13. kathari

    Google Image “Vulture Sky Burial Tibet” to see for real what happens when the ground is too hard to dig graves and there is no wood for cremation, and the religion of the people encourages generosity to all living beings.

    Warning: Viewing best not around meal time

  14. Ron Sullivan

    Also “Towers of Silence” — and recent news articles about how Parsees are building vulture aviaries in India, because

    http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/eij/article/silent_towers_empty_skies/

    Hey, this is where Nigel scooped the NYT.

  15. Ruby Lou

    This day’s commentary conclusively proves beyond any doubt this blog deserves its place at the top of my bookmarks.

  16. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    @H.E. Wolf

    Heidi, is that you?

  17. onychophora

    I hunt to sustain my meat-eating proclivities (why pay someone else to do your killin’ fer ye, after all). A deer carcass turns into a pile o’ bones in about 2-3 days, depending on the density of scavengers. Bones are gone shortly thereafter. It’s such an amazingly quick transition!

  18. Cycles

    Dead varmints in the city/burbs too – where are all piles of raccoons, squirrels, feral cats, rats, pigeons? Even if their flesh is picked away by scavengers, paved cityscapes don’t offer a lot of dirt or random biomaterial for their bones to decay in. Clearly this implies the existence of giant secret critter catacombs somewhere.

  19. Hattie

    By God, Twisty, I was just asking myself where the corpses were. Very strange.

  20. Eileen

    A biologist friend told me that in our woods (northeast) the voles/mice/weasels/etc eat a huge amount of bones every year as their main source of calcium. Then birds of many stripes eat the rodents to get *their* calcium for egg-building. {Cue that Circle of Life song!}

  21. H.E. Wolf

    Yes; and I have no idea why that monkey photo shows up.

    How are you, soror mea? Segue to e-mail if you wish.

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