Nature Report

Rolling out and heading down Academy Street for my ride today, I spied a coyote on the sidewalk, across the street from our house and just one property down.  He had the brown coat, long legs, and big ears as well as a bushy tail.  He was not especially large, so perhaps a somewhat immature one, but on reflection I don’t think it was a fox, as I first did.  At any rate, he was pretty skinny, and out well after sunrise.  And though he was moving along, he was not spooked by seeing me ride by.  I guess he’s becoming very accustomed to life in suburbia.

Jane and her walking group have seen this guy, and another one who is obviously a red fox, quick and quite robust, so regularly on their morning walks that they have clearly identified each as a separate individual.  I love the idea of having foxes around.  They keep the local squirrel population in check, and they are beautiful animals.  As long as they don’t turn rabid, they can be my neighbors.

About three miles farther on the ride, west of Maple Avenue in Vienna, I was rolling along near Northside and Eudora Parks when a doe and her spotted fawn crossed the trail just ahead.  I checked to see if others were following, so as not to get broadsided, but it was just the two.  “Bambi and his mom,” I thought.  Despite the woodsiness of western Vienna and the surrounding County region, I’ve always been amazed that the significant deer herd that lives in this area has the resources and privacy to keep on expanding their population.

But that population suffers reversals too.  Right beside the asphalt right-of-way between Jackson Parkway and the Trail a few days ago lay a dead doe.  I had just been annoyed at having to do an elaborate loop involving the sidewalk to get on the right-of-way because the curb ramp was being inexplicably blocked by a VDOT pickup truck.  When I spotted the deer I understood that the truck driver was probably responding to a report that somebody phoned in about the carcass.

The deer was lying on its side in the undergrowth of the short wooded stretch between the road and the trail.  Its head was arched way back, just the way deer often lie along the road when they have been hit.  This one had no obvious injury that I noted, though I didn’t dismount to draw a chalk outline and do a forensic exam.  It had been there long enough for flies to find it, but not long enough for a stench to develop.

I wondered how it had died.  Hit by a car on Jackson Parkway?  Hit by a ranger truck on the W&OD?  It was almost equidistant between the two.  Surreptitiously shot with a gun or a bow by some righteously indignant local gardener, tired of seeing the fruits (or vegetables, or flowers) of her labor destroyed by these overpopulated, predator-free vandals?  Astonished and angered by their brazenness and determination?  I think of the one (may this carcass be her!) last summer, who looked up, when I caught her gorging on our nicest hostas, with an expression that said “Do you mind?  I’m busy eating!”  Maybe it just got old.  Maybe it got indigestion from overindulging.  Maybe it had a difficult delivery and got infected.

In any event, when I came back from my ride later that morning, it was still there.  The VDOT guy must have realized he couldn’t handle it alone and left without it.  More flies had found it; the body was getting bloated in the 95˚ heat; a certain stench was discernible.  Next morning, Jane and her walking friends saw the carcass being removed.  It took two men, who were carrying the deer in a bag.  Though they were standing across the street, the walkers gagged at the stench.  The extra whole day in the heat, along with a warm night, had put decomposition into fast forward.  As Hamlet said, the deer had become host  to a “certain convocation of politic worms.”  (Wait—I thought those maggots were going to meet in Tampa in August).  The VDOT guys spread lime generously in the woods.  The stench yet lurks, nevertheless.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2012.

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