Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Bone Yard

A live Key Deer standing there, pondering it's next move.
Key Deer Boulevard on Big Pine Key. Five arrow-straight miles (8kms) that cut through the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge on the north side of the island.
This is the Key Deer's main habitat in the islands, which between them constitute it's entire range, and it has to share them with humans, many of whom, though late arrivals themselves. tend to resent the presence of the deer.Sharing the road is part of the issue, the other part is learning to share one's garden with these creatures on Big Pine Key.I thought Cheyenne might enjoy some time in the woods. She has met Key Deer in the past month and they freak her out. She stops, looks at them warily and comes running to hide behind my legs until the danger is past. She is no threat to wildlife.
There was a threat of snow flurries (not really, but it felt cold enough): blue skies and bright sunshine broke out instead:The black dots on the branches in the picture above are turkey vultures, like these in the picture below: This is their time of year in the Keys, and who can blame them, this is a great time normally to be down here. These two below looked like cartoon characters to me: It took a detective like me but a couple of minutes to figure out their interest in this woody spot:It seems at least one and maybe more Key deer had died here.The bleached white bones lay about in a confusion of profusion, starkly back lit by the brown pine needles carpeting the limestone: I trod on this next one and it rose up like a skeletal hand from the grave and tapped me in the back of the calf. I leaped like a startled hare (an arresting image, I know), and when I got home I gave that portion of my anatomy extra attention in the shower. I felt unclean, despite myself.
There were bones scattered all around the clearing and i wondered if some enterprising, hungry resident of Big Pine might not have taken the law into his own hands out in this lonely spot?As I pondered the charnel house around my feet the local undertakers stretched impatiently waiting for the intruders to move on and let them get back to work:
Bizarrely enough I found a container lying in the mess as though the butcher had forgotten it and left it behind.On mature reflection I doubt it was a human hand that did this directly. A hunter wouldn't pick the bones clean and leave them lying around. I rather suspect traffic on nearby Key Deer Boulevard was responsible for severe injuries followed by a solitary death in the nearby bushes.Cheyenne to my surprise showed no interest in the deer remains and contented herself with finding a puddle of tannic water to drink:It's not too terribly legal to eat them either, unless you happen to be a turkey vulture in which case you probably can't read the sign.