A Killing

A fresh and somewhat sunny day today, so I decided to walk up to my most ‘active’ spot in the woods; a place where I invariably find tracks, sign and other leavings from the night before. I was not disappointed again this morning. There had been fresh snowfall and the snow line had inched lower again. I love the shape that the crystalline pines make as they totter on the edge of the cliffs above; it always reminds me of a mountain buzz cut. Each morning becomes a kind of waiting game at this time of year, as the sun does not fully reach the valley floor until 11am, so I always keep an eye on the sun creeping down as I walk; willing it downwards sooner.

a killing 2

On first arriving at the ‘busy place’ I saw my first sign ~ red deer; they had felled a large branch and had proceeded to strip the bark off it. The footprints were more than likely female and they are all around the fallen branch, showing that it could have been a bit of a feeding frenzy. Deer strip bark in a different way from hares, rabbits or beavers as they tend to move along the branches and make long scrapes, whereas the other animals work in a horizontal manner across the branch. The deer would probably have been after the moss growing on the branches too, as most of it has been stripped off with the bark.

a killing 7

a killing 3

Sign and track together:

a killing 4

There were hare prints everywhere around the entrance to this busy place. Here are some parallel sets of tracks, with what looks like the same individual making the same passage twice. This area is a favourite nightly feeding ground for hares, I have found more activity here than anywhere else I have looked.

a killing 5

Here is another hare track (with what looked like a dog track also in the frame). The hare is at full stretch and was making use of the ready-made runs along next to the undergrowth, moving from one area to the next to feed. There were droppings here too, left in ones and twos along spots where the hare had been feeding.

a killing 1

This place has an abundance of low lying bushes and exposed roots for the hares to eat at this time of year when the snow is very high. Here the hares have gnawed on the half-covered branches of hazel. They follow each branch along and up and then start on the adjacent one.

a killing 8

Here are the teeth marks up close. Hares make more of a random pattern across the branch, unlike beavers, who make a much more orderly job of it.

a killing 9a killing 10

Then I came across a killing. There was so much activity going on here. You could just sense the drama of it as it happened. There were hare tracks leading up to patches of blood spread along a few metres of track and lots of other animal prints all around; I found deer, fox, dog and weasel/ermine. I do not think this kill was fresh but my dog found a small knee joint bone nearby, so any other animals that had come to check it out after the event had not picked up on everything that was left. I would say that it probably was either a fox or weasel that had made the kill, leaning towards fox, as its prints were so much more visible throughout the area. I would also hazard a guess that the victim was a hare just because there were so many obvious hare signs in that area.

a killing 6