Thursday, December 11, 2008

Should have known better

"Look! Something caught a rabbit!"

While I was bent trying to focus on the fur (proud of myself for spotting something so well-camouflaged and so small), my husband got the bigger picture.

"The rest of him's over here."

OK, ew.

"Did he escape, but get mortally wounded? Did he just crawl over there to die?" (Latent detective tendencies in high gear!)

"Well, probably not. His head is missing."

Had we blundered up and scared a predator away in mid-snack? Hubby moved the carcass a little, and it was stiff. So, no.

Jasmine discovered some strewn rabbit guts, and happily gobbled up several bits before we noticed and tugged her away. Yuck, Jasmine.

On down the path, I had an idea. "Hey, let's get the game cam and put it there, to see if any critter comes back later to finish his dinner." (Latent detective tendencies on fire!)

I'd been moaning about moving the camera for some time now. We were not getting anything interesting where it had been stationed for the past several months.

While hubby was setting up the camera, I found more evidence.

"Maybe if I put this on the blog, a bird expert could tell me what type of bird this feather came from..."

OK, so a raptor (owl? buteo? accipiter?) was probably not going to come back to finish off the rabbit, but surely we'd get some cool wildlife shot of hungry scavengers.

But I really should have known better.

The only one who came back to finish anything was Jasmine.

Bad dog!

Oh, well.


If you want to see the Cottontail in full headless gory glory, you can click here. He's missing a portion of his side too. It's bloody. It's not for everybody.


On the feather, I was thinking "owl" but I really have no idea. (So if you do, please post a comment.) It seems similar to the photo on this page titled "Great Horned Owl feather". That would be cool, since we've never seen one here before.


R.Powers said...

Carnivorous Cardinal no doubt. Pretty rare, but your game camera may catch it.

The Country Experience said...

Jasmine says she is cleaning things up for you, lol. Darned game cam, tattling on her. ;)

Your game cam has inspired my husband and I to get one eventually. So far I have managed to keep my husband from seeing your picture of Jasmine, as he is wanting a GP eventually too, as well as livestock for it to protect. Hm, that sounds like he wants an awful lot, doesn't it? ;)

Anonymous said...

wonder why the head is missing? do they eat that first? or carry it home for a souvenir?

Anonymous said...

Poor Jasmine - caught out on camera - how embarrassing for her (lol)

Pamela said...

I've seen so many sharp-shinned hawk feathers that look like that (but then, so do Coopers)
But! Those two accipitors are bird chasers.

I'm just barely learning how to identify the hawks in our area after careful detailing.

I wish my acquaintance the bird expert was here. She'd know immediately. I went on a walk with her and some other birders last week -- she picked up a feather and said: Oh, A Blue Grouse.

Pamela said...

ps to bill/prairie point.
raptors usually hold their prey in such a way so that the head is where they start tearing flesh. Very graphic. argh.

Annie in Austin said...

So a hawk could rip the head off a squirrel? MSS of Zanthan Gardens twittered about finding a headless squirrel in her garden a few weeks ago, not long after finding two dead raccoons in her yard. This post makes me wonder whether hawks hang out in central Austin. Maybe she needs a twitter-crittercam?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

lisa said...

What a mystery! I've been told that weasels will suck the blood out of a kill, and I've had raccoons come after a cage full of kittens and strip one poor kitty down to a bare skull by pulling it through the wire. (TMI, sorry.) I hope the game cam gives some answers eventually.

Susan Gets Native said...

Hey, girl!
You've got a great horned owl feather there. During a tussle with prey, they will lose a feather or two, thankfully, so us budding detectives can puzzle out who ate who!

And yes, they will rip off the heads of their prey. Brains are a very nutritious part of any raptor meal. But they will also just rip off the head to facilitate easier access to the chest cavity.

Great find! Be thankful you have a GHOW in the neighborhood. Excellent rodent control.

Gail said...

Interesting~~really~~nature is messy! Now I know even more about the Great Horned Owl! gail

countrypeapie said...

We have only ever lost one of our hens to a predator. We found its headless body close to the coop. I was convinced that a bigger bird was to blame -- couldn't think of any other predator that would leave the body. I figured it swooped down, grabbed the hen by the head, and let the body fall to the ground. This theory was entirely a product of my imagination -- glad to see it's also rooted in real probability!

LauraHinNJ said...

I'll second Susan that GHO's often just take the head and leave the body behind.

Rurality said...

FC, oh let's pray not!

TCE, They are a lot of fun, both the dog and the game cam! Do you get the Farmers & Consumers bulletin? They have had a lot of good prices on Pyrs lately. You can see it and subscibe at .

Bill, I wondered that too.

EG, it doesn't seem to bother her in the least!

Pamela, you're right, I forgot that about accipters.

Annie, that's probably what it is!

Lisa, I've heard that about raccoons. Ew again.

Thanks Susan! I think this will be the second time we've added a bird to the "yard list" (yeah big yard!) based on feathers alone. The first was a turkey - we've seen them lots since then, but first it was just the feathers. Funny we haven't ever heard the Great Horned Owl though. We sure hear the Barred Owls all the time, and a Screech Owl every now and then. Hey, we need a Barn Owl too, huh?!

Gail, yep, red in tooth and claw, as they say. ;)

Meg, interesting, huh?! Sorry for it happening to a chicken though.

Thanks Laura, I guess it's good to know they aren't going hungry. I learn so much from all of y'all, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for stopping by and leaing a comment on my Mushroom blog.
Yes, you are right Jellies are called "Witch's Butter" as well.
They are edible but I'd rather take pictures;)
-Cheers from Canada!

Susan Gets Native said...

Oh, by the way....GHOW's start nesting soon, so keep an ear out for ho-ho-ho, hooo hooo's!

If they are finding food in your yard, good bet that they will be nesting nearby too!

Anonymous said...

We had to separate our dog from a rabbit leg this morning, much to her chagrin. We went through all possible suspects, the top two being a coyote or our cat. We never thought about Great Horned's, although we hear them almost every morning at daybreak.

threecollie said...

What an interesting mystery and solution!

Anonymous said...

Ok, came upon this site because that's what I just found out under one of my bird feeders this morning. Headless rabbit and I've heard those owls too.

I've seen kestrels nail morning doves broad daylight but since the sun has just come up, figured this was more of a nocturnal kill.

I know these creatures need to eat but to see actual evidence and witness such happenings makes me want to take down all my bird feeders.

Bluejays are favorite prey more than anything tho' we've seen the red tail hawk nail them more than once. So whenever I'm out filling my birdfeeders and see the evidence of a few blue, gray, buff or sometimes red I just sigh and wonder at natures alignment of why I'm witness to such happenings.

Ya! I do want to live in a perfect world but what better way than nature to enlighten me with evidence otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Our cat got into a scuffle with something that really spooked him the other night and when I immediately opened the door he was on alone on the deck. The next morning we found two headless squirrels next to the deck. Although we found no feathers, my guess was that the predator was an owl that I have seen in our large oak tree which is also home to many squirrels. My guess was that it snatched them from their nests and dropped the remains. Today we discovered another headless victim in the same exact spot. This is getting creepy!