Youth Science Lesson – Local Wildlife 8
Over the last eight weeks we have talked about several wildlife topics and species. But to end the lessons for this term, we are going to end with a mystery. A mystery I am going to let you try and solve.
Over the weekend we found a dead squirrel in our yard. It was in the side yard, near a group of oak trees where squirrels are abundant (Lesson 6) and the log pile I have talked about. It is not unusual to find dead squirrels, I guess, but this one was different. It obviously had not been hit by a car, but it did not look like it had fallen from a tree either – which we see squirrels either fallen or thrown from trees by rivals (Lesson 1). No, this one had been killed by a predator.
How do we know?
It looked like it had been eaten. And it looked like it had been eaten recently.
But who may have killed it?
We found it early in the morning when we were turning the sprinkler on. Whoever killed it had done so either overnight, or late the afternoon before. They had eaten most of it, but not all, and left the remains by our house.
And here is the weird part…
When we went out the following morning, the remains were gone. That night our dogs had been barking loudly. Could they have seen whoever took the remains?
Who may have killed this squirrel, eaten most of it, left some, and return to remove the following day?
Could it have been a different animal who removed the following day?
Well… let’s think about the creatures we talked about in our lessons.
We started with territoriality… with a few exceptions, territorial battles are with those of your own kind. You are really fighting over the same resources, space, or mates. So, this would have been another squirrel. Do you think another squirrel could have done this?
We then talked about frogs. Frogs do come out at night, but do they eat squirrels? And are squirrels out at night? Is there a frog in our neighborhood big enough to kill a squirrel? Could a frog have been the one who dragged off the remains the following day? What do you think?
In Lesson 3 we talked about nests. Squirrels do build nests in these trees. Could this have been an evening nest raider? Who would be creeping around trees at night raiding squirrel nests? Or do you think this squirrel was out, moving around the limbs, or on the ground when it was killed?
Owls… we talked about owls. What do you think? These large birds do hunt in the afternoon, at night, and in the morning. Do you think they are large enough to kill a squirrel? Do you think they would have left some of the remains after eating? Do you think they would have returned for the remains? What do you think about this one?
We then talked about snakes. Could a snake eat a squirrel? Would they have left remains of the animal they ate? What kind of snake would be able to eat a squirrel? Have you seen any of those in your neighborhood?
Last week we talked about coyotes. What do you think about these guys? Could they have done this? Would they kill a squirrel, leave some of the remains, and return? Do they move around at night, in the morning, and afternoons?
And let me toss out a couple of other possibilities we did not get to talk about this term.
Fox… neighbors here in East Hill have seen fox. Like coyotes, they move in the late afternoons, at night (when most people have seen them) and early morning. Fox are members of the dog family and relatives of the coyote, they are smaller.
Cats… I walk my dogs at night on hot days and there are loose cats everywhere. There are reports of how these cats kill a lot of wildlife. They do kill rodents (like rats and squirrels) but they also kill birds and lizards, they kill a lot of things. Could they have been the one?
Opossums or armadillos? They come out at night, but do they eat squirrels?
Hawks? Do hawks hunt at night?
Then there are the “far out” ones. Ones that people have seen but not often – but all suspects should be “put on the table” for discussion, right?
Bald eagles? – I have seen them fly over – could they be the one?
Bears? – sounds crazy, there are no reports of bears in East Hill, but people in east of Gulf Breeze have seen them… what do you think?
– What do you think it was?
– You have some clues
(1) found early in the morning and had not been dead long
(2) was not completely eaten and the remains were gone by the next morning
(3) our dogs barked loudly the second night, they definitely saw something
– Do you have enough clues? If not, what is missing? Let me know and I will go take a peek.
– Let me know what you think it might be. You can email me back.
HAVE FUN AND STAY SAFE