Walking the river bottom at dusk

October 7, 2013

Walking the river bottom at dusk, my first real walk in three days, my reverie was broken when Nubio appeared out of the brush down below, near what once was a running creek, with something large in his mouth. It looked to be the size of a rabbit, but I knew right away it wasn’t a rabbit. “Drop it!” I shouted, on the slim chance it was still alive. And, whatever it was, he needed to get it out of his mouth. Honey ran up to him, ready to scoop it up if he dropped it, so I yelled at her to get away, too.

As I got closer, Chico straining on the leash, eager to get in on the action, I could smell that unmistakable stench of a decomposing body. When Nubio finally reluctantly dropped it, I saw that it was the perfect head of a deer, its big, soft brown eyes open like it had been decapitated, like the heads some hunters mount on their walls.

Darkness was falling fast or I would have examined the head more closely and gone looking for the body. Did it die of thirst, or did a cougar kill it? I wondered.

I had to get the three undaunted dogs away from the head, so I left it where Nubio had dropped it, out in the dusty, bone-dry open space, and hoofed it back to the house. Tomorrow, early, I’ll go back without the dogs and see if it’s still there, or if another wild animal carried the head away in the night. I’ll check to see if the rest of the body is nearby. I know there are bears, coyotes, bobcats, and possibly cougars (mountain lions) back there, but in all the years I’ve walked the river bottom, I’ve never come across a dead deer.

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