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Murder in the Bamboo Forest
One January day I found absolutely the strangest thing ever in the yard. I was walking down the path we call the Avenue. At the east end of the path is a dense stand of Black Bamboo. As I turned up toward the patio, I noticed that one tall bamboo cane was leaning over. It caught my eye because I had just a very few weeks before cleaned out all the old, dead canes that had crashed over. And here was another.
Then I saw a little shape that didn't seem to fit. It was furry. It looked like a furry patch of cane, which made no sense. I have seen Wily's furry toys wind up in trees. I peered more closely. It was not a toy, it was a dead rat, hung by his tail about six or seven feet above the ground. His tail was looped around a couple of branches at the joint of the bamboo cane almost as if it had been loosely tied in a knot.
Here is the scene of the crime. I made a mental note to clip the bamboo and get a picture that would show how the tail was knotted. Now, how could such a thing have happened?
My first thought was of a Loggerhead Shrike. Shrikes are tough, predatory birds that eat mice, small birds and grasshoppers. They have the odd habit of impaling their dead prey on thorny trees or barbed wire fences to keep it out of reach of other animals until they are ready to eat. Could this be the work of a shrike?
We do have shrikes, but they hang out in open areas. Where I have seen one is out on the Canyon Vista track, an open fenced field. A Loggerhead Shrike sometimes sits on the fence there, hunting, no doubt. The bamboo is surely much too enclosed a space for a bird with that habit? And Craig thought the rat was too big and heavy for a Shrike, which is, after all, only about the size of a mockingbird. Also, shrikes impale their victims only four or five feet above the ground. This was a bit too high. And they impale them; they don't tie them up by their tails!
How else would this thing have happened? Do raccoons catch and eat rats? Tie their tails in knots? Hang them in trees? Do owls hang up their prey? What kind of animal would make rat jerky in the Bamboo Forest?
Continue: A Possum's Tale
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