Life and death in the New Hampshire woods: Deer carcass feeds coyotes and their fetal pups
A raucous chorus of crows and a few smaller blue jays seemed suspicious. The scavenging "meat birds" flocked to pasture's-edge trees, circling on tilted wings to the natural funnel at the bottom of a steep, south-facing hemlock ravine located a mere hundred yards from the house.
CSI South Sutton
As expected, we found a freshly killed white-tailed deer - disemboweled, with entrails and spine pulled free of dangling legs, its neck and head still intact. A short walk uphill led to a half-dozen feeding platforms packed in the snow, each flecked with blood and bits of meat, hide and hair. Nearby, the discarded rumen sack contained the deer's last meal. A cud of partially digested tree bark and sapling buds looked as foreign as grass clippings spilled on the snow.
The steep ledges and talus boulders overlooking the forest of oak and hemlock are ruled by a pack of coyotes that howl - often startlingly nearby and always unexpectedly - from beyond the cultivated fringes of our small tree farm.
Stone walls and a former fenced sheep pen constrict wildlife travel nightly. The open barway in a stone wall at the edge of the road had made a perfect spot for a coyote ambush. Coyotes are cunning in using natural ambush sites for driving deer into cornered positions for a group kill. It's happened very nearby before - perhaps for decades.
My neighbor Garrett Evans shared stunning wildlife images he captured using remote game cameras. I had asked him to attempt to capture a portrait of the successful coyotes.
The deer carcass was going fast by the time Garrett strapped two infrared cameras with cable locks to trees at the ambush site. One focused on the carcass, the other on the wider angle of approach. The likely path coyotes would follow would have them moving the meat uphill, away from the road.
Cute coyote pups conceived during the late-February breeding season will be born in April. The pups are now growing and developing in utero from the protein and fat of winter deer kills. We mourn the deer and malign coyotes. Until the "awww" moment when pups appear. Why coo at a photo of cute coyote pups in a den without acknowledging they are born of venison?
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