Sunday, April 10, 2011

Deer Decay

One month has passed since I found March Buck. When I first encountered the body, the front end, including the head, was rather intact, while the back half was in an advanced stage of decomposition. The hindquarters were stripped of meat, and the organs had been reduced to dirt; the rest of the body had a "fresh" appearance. Several scenarios can account for this condition, but the most plausible is as follows: shortly after death, the body was discovered by coyotes, who immediately ripped into the deer's hindquarters, as they tend to do. The corpse was subsequently buried by snow, and when it melted, decay continued. (I have since observed three different deer bodies on the Matthaei Botanical Gardens' property that have followed this same method of decomposition.)

My most recent visit to the remainder of March Buck, which was a week or so ago, revealed an articulated skeleton with a covering of skin. There really was no more meat left to speak of, and the only untouched parts of the body were the lower legs and feet.

The head of March Buck is, of course, undergoing a completely different process of decay. Though they have been observed in the area, coyotes can't get into my parents' backyard -- and something tells me they wouldn't be too interested, anyway. Crows have eyed the head, as has a turkey vulture; meanwhile, temperatures have been a little too chilly for the insects to really start picking away at the flesh. It has been rainy, though, and bacteria have been at work. Hair is falling from the skin, and the flesh, exposed, has transitioned through several colors: blood-red, purple, blue, gray.

At first glance, with its missing hair and blotchy, discolored flesh, the head is an ugly, putrid sight, but through a macro lens, beautiful details are revealed.

Deer Decay I

Deer Decay II

Deer Decay III

Deer Decay IV

Staring today, the temperatures are set to get warmer -- which means bugs, and lots of them! Soon, the head of March Buck will be swimming in maggots and carrion beetles, but for now, it is quite still.

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