Another Mystery Death

by Carl Strang

Perhaps the question has occurred to you: moving through a wild landscape you see so many animals and signs of their activity. You know they all die, sooner or later. Why do we so seldom see the bodies? Part of the answer, I think, is that some animals die in hidden places, knowing they are vulnerable from illness or injury and wanting to avoid predators. Others are killed by predators and consumed. Scavengers can make quick work of corpses. Still, if you spend enough time in the out-of-doors, especially off trail, you will find bodies. Here is a recent example from Mayslake Forest Preserve.

This fox squirrel was beneath an oak in the north savanna. If I had stuck to the trails I never would have found it.

There was no sign of violence that I could see. I noticed fur missing from the squirrel’s belly.

One possibility was mange, or another hair-loss illness.

When I rolled the body with a stick, I saw that this was a mother squirrel. The hair was a normal loss around the nipples. Sadly, this implied that there were baby squirrels in a nest whose survival was unlikely, though this was near the time of weaning. There is a story here, but I don’t have the skill to discern more of it.

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