Wildlife CSI

I woke up this morning to find a crime scene outside my window worthy of the best investigative efforts of CSI.

Two of our three plastic bird feeders were on the ground. One had been knocked five feet away from its post.

Who could have done such a thing? Bear? Squirrel? I went out to investigate, my eyes alert for even the tiniest clues that might lead to the culprit.

This was before I’d had a cup of coffee, so maybe it is fortunate the clues weren’t tiny after all. They were brazenly pressed into the soft earth of the garden around the base of the feeder posts for all to see. They were about three inches long, and cloven.

Elk.

I’ve been climbing the trails near my house recently, eagerly searching for signs the elk have returned to the nearby mesa. Now right here in my garden is the cold, hard proof they have … but I’m not feeling happy about it.

I’m like most other people when it comes to things like this. It’s much easier when elk stay “out there,” in the wilds where I can go and visit. It’s less fun when they knock down my seed feeders or, worse, nibble on the tender plants in my garden.

Isn’t that the way of it—this complex relationship we have with the wild. I’m upset with the elk that visited “my” area last night. I’m equally unhappy about a tide of mice that first rose up in the hay barn, then flooded the chicken coop, and now appears to be swamping the garage. Mice in the field, food for hawks and owls, fine. Mice in my garage, definitely not fine.

And yet, I chose to live in this rural area precisely because my house is surrounded by forest. I love hiking right from my back door, spending lunch hour wandering in search of birds and squirrels and, yes, elk. I go into their home to see them … should I be surprised when a wild neighbor returns the favor?

I set one seed feeder back on its post and brought the other into the garage for repair, thinking about the forest-dweller who came calling last night. Think I’ll go for a hike today and see if I can find him.

(for further evidence of the crime, click on the Flickr photos link in the right-hand column, then check out the photo set called “Just for Fun: Wildlife CSI”)

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2 thoughts on “Wildlife CSI

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  1. Nice story, Julie. Question: Do elk eat bird seed, or was it just leaving evidence so you would know “it’s spring”?

    1. Seeds are high-quality nutrition in a small package, so it’s conceivable the elk ate the seeds once the feeders spilled onto the ground. I don’t know whether the elk were trying to knock the feeders down to get at the seeds, or whether it “just happened.”

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