Today was a bit above freezing, the beginning of a thaw that will culminate in a downpour tomorrow, if the forecasts are correct. The soft thick snow cover was coated in animal tracks today - snowshoe hare, red squirrel, deer. And then...
Blood on snow is an incredible exclamation point. It can't be missed or mistaken for anything else. and here was quite a bit of it, each time a deer put its foot down a crimson burst in the snow. The tracks were sloppy, too. This deer was not doing well.
Soon after we found canid tracks also, more than one. There weren't signs of a struggle, but it seemed like far from a coincidence that they were here. At one point one split off from the others, perhaps a scout trying to cut the deer off at a turn somewhere.
The blood trail crossed the trail several times, at one point following it for a few hundred feet. i'm not certain what was happening here. I am hoping it was coyotes trailing an injured deer rather than a pack of dogs running down a deer for sport. My tracking skills are not sufficient to say for sure... but their persistence as well as a piece of scat I saw made me think coyote.
The snow was not deep, and unless deer are encumbered by deep snow coyotes don't generally try to hunt a healthy deer. Perhaps the injury here was inflicted pre-coyote... if so it probably involved a car.
The blood trail veered off towards a wetland and beaver pond. I didn't try to find the deer. If it evaded the coyotes, it was going to have to rest to survive all that blood lost. If not, well, coyotes need to eat too, and the deer may not have been able to survive the injury anyway. but I have to admit... I'm really curious.
I hope someone can help decipher the story from my photos. One thing is clear though... not long ago a life and death drama of some sort unfolded in these woods, and most likely there are coyotes sleeping somewhere with full bellies. I'll never know... the rain is coming and will wash most of the snow away, and along with it the blood.