Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kawbawgam Trail Bones

Yesterday was cool and cloudy, and Steph and I drove out to the Kawbawgam cross-country ski trail in Chocolay Township. The jack pine forest smelled and sounded beautiful: it reminded me of camping as a child, and of the stays at the Huron Mountain Club's Stone House on Ives Lake. It was very peaceful, and the ground was covered in mosses, lichens, and blueberry bushes. Because the forest floor was so open, it was easy to see the deer bones that were scattered throughout the woods. No two bones were close to one another, and, based on their varied states of decay, it's reasonable to assume that they all came from several different deer. Some bones were quite fresh and still had bits of ligaments attached; others were somewhat bleached; a few bones were so bleached that they were chalky and cracked. Most of the bones we saw were fractured and had been gnawed by rodents.

This deer vertebra, resting on a bed of reindeer lichen, was old and chewed, but was also the home of a large slug. A second vertebra -- found far away from this one -- also had a slug living inside, where the spinal cord was once housed.

Vertebra Slug

It was rather surreal, being able to see the bones so easily from the hardly-used trail. Even more bizarre was the fact that they were all so far apart from one another. Spotting the bones as we walked along was almost like a treasure hunt.

Half-Leg

Pelvis Fragment

How were the bones scattered so randomly over such a wide area? How many years have they been lying on the lichens, slowly returning to nature? How many different deer did we see?

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