Wildlife Wednesday: Not For the Squeamish

Doe in the yard

No, no, no…the title does not refer to this doe, or any of her kin. She’s just grazing in the yard until I run her off – Sweet Cleo is asleep on the job – and taking the first photo spot, to spare anyone with delicate sensibilities from the photo at the bottom.

Read no further, if bones give you the willies!

Ok. You’re dismissed, Deer.

Who, me?

Yes. You.

SCRAM!

Ok, have you ever seen an owl pellet? I found one last week…

We have lots of owls here year-round, but I hear them closer to the house in winter. Maybe the warm air leaking from my drafty house draws the prey closer, I don’t know. I also don’t know what variety of owls they might be, having never gotten a decent look at one. They’re big, though. Maybe Barn Owls, maybe Great Horned – I’ve seen them in the moonlight, on rare occasions.

Owls eat small rodents, which makes them more than welcome in my garden. Unlike hawks, which hold their prey in their talons and tear off bites, owls swallow their prey whole. Their digestive systems take the usable material, and compress the non-digestable (hair, bones, etc.) into pellets, which the owl , um…expells.

That’s a gentle way to say “pukes-up,” right?

Scientists study owl pellets, dissecting them to learn all sorts of things, from the health of an individual bird, to the variety of rodents in the hunting area. People collect and sell them. I was surprised to find them offered for sale on eBay…

Last chance. Click away if you don’t want to see it…

Owl Pellet, near the wall

Personally, I find them fascinating.

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33 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday: Not For the Squeamish

  1. I haven’t seen one of them since I was a child! The one I found was much smaller though. Thanks for posting it, Marie. I find things like that fascinating too!

  2. How I envy you … deer and owls in your garden! Thank you for an interesting post I found the pellet fascinating too … couldn’t help myself, had to try and indentify the bits and pieces 🙂 Laura

  3. Good photo. must admit to enjoying dissecting owl and raptor pellets, l find them below perches while walking the dogs. I had no idea they were selling on eBay, maybe a sideline for me! They are mostly from diurnal short-eared owls. My garden is in a breeding territory so in the spring and summer an owl flies round the perimeter a few times a day. I was standing at the kitchen window one evening and watched it swoop down and take a vole a few metres from the house. Roll on spring and the owls! Thanks, Tracey

    • I don’t know the rules on collecting them, if there are any. But a University might pay for them…you should ask around. Every little bit helps, right?
      We have so many voles this year that I’m worried about the gardens even before planting. 😦

  4. Aw, Marie. So sweet of you to warn us but this really wasn’t anything upsetting. It’s not like you posted a spider pic. That would have sent any sane person running from your site. An owl pellet is kid’s stuff in comparison. Thanks, just the same. 😉

  5. The doe is lovely. You know how I love the deer. I like the owl pellet, too. A teacher fried (Leah’s mom) uses them with her class. Her husband got them for her, of course. Most of the kids enjoyed the activity!!!

  6. I didn’t know that, that is really interesting. I went down to look at the photo before I had read it all, and for the life of my couldn’t work it out, then I read on and there was your explanation. Haha.

  7. I didn’t know that about owls, and have never seen an owl pellet. Very interesting! I’m surprised I haven’t seen one in the woods. I know we have at least one Great Horned Owl living back there (having heard him or her at night).

  8. I don’t know if I would pick through an owl pellet, but your picture is interesting. The deer is lovely, When the weather is right we get whole families of them wandering around our neighborhoods.

    • I decided not to pick through this one – Angel’s not quite ready for that. Someday, though. I want her to be fearless in her curiosity. Girls who say, “Ew, Gross!” in Biology class make themselves targets.
      At least they did in my high school…

  9. In 2nd grade my teacher was an amazing person. We had a pet goose in the classroom, had reading time inside old barrels if we wanted, walkd to the tracks and toured a train engine, watched a pumpkin rot for 8 months in a sealed shut glass box, and we also had a day where we dissected owl pellets and tried to create rodent skeletons with what we found. We also buried a dead possum a kid brought in to dig it up at the end of the year and look at its skeleton…which cued the teacher into having a lady bring in a litter (are they called litters?) of baby possums she was raising. That’s so cool that you found an owl pellet! What’s Angel think? 😉

    • Wow – how lucky were you and your classmates? Those are some amazing memories…
      Angel kind of peeked at the pellet, but we’re not dissecting it. She was much more interested in the few dandelions that she found in the yard…There’ll be plenty of time later for that.

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