Friday, November 19, 2010


This would have been great for my Halloween post. It looks like some type of ceremonial mask.

It’s actually the hip bone of a deer. The deer are so numerous that their bones are scattered all over the landscape. Sometimes I wonder how there can be so many live deer around when so many are dieing to provide a continuous supply of bones.

I normally don't find entire deer skeletons. I usually find single bones like this leg bone. One of the larger scavengers probably carried the bone here when it still had some meat attached. Large scavengers can quickly disassemble a carcass and scatter the parts for a great distance.

Bones rarely last long enough to become old. Once the meat is gone, other animals begin the process of breaking them down. Rodents use the bones as a source of calcium. It’s hard to find any bones that haven’t been gnawed by rodents.

Squirrels, mice, voles and ground hogs seem to be the major bone eaters. Rabbits are probably the greatest non-rodent consumers of bone. Most of the bone chewing occurs at night when rodents are most active. Fresh gnaw marks are usually evident every morning. The bright white color is an indicator of recent activity.

Smaller bones, like this vertebra, are carried by many animals. I’ve seen squirrels carry these up trees and have watched crows fly off with small bones. The speed with which animals consume the bones makes we wonder how they were satisfying their calcium needs 30 years ago when deer were still relatively scarce.


  1. Another fascinating post. When we were kids we found lots of bones in the woods around here, too. Once in awhile we would find pretty much of a small skeleton, but never a large one.

  2. I get tickled when I see rodent chew on old bones that I find. Mother Nature's way of perpetual giving.

  3. I didn't know that rabbits were interested in bones. Good question about the lack of deer decades ago.

  4. Hi Steve...I used to see more bones like these on the edge of a beach on some back woods lakes ..perhaps deer fallen through the ice or something like that !!
    I'm glad I don't have to gnaw on a bone to get calcium....and Steve 30 years ago they got calcium the same way I do, at the drug store!! : }

  5. Thanks, Lois. When I was in sixth grade, I thought I’d found the skeleton of a giant monster, until someone identified it as that of a cow.

    Hi, Karen. This is certainly a long established recycling effort.

    Hi, Anne. I’ve seen rabbits gnawing on both deer antlers and bones. Because of this, I used to put beef bones in with my domestic rabbits to give them something to snack on.

    Hi, grammie g. Your rodents were lucky. Thirty years ago, our local pharmacy opened at 9:00 am and closed at 5:30 pm. The night time rodents always found the doors locked when they went to town.

  6. Thank you for your site. My son found a bone on a school hiking trip. We needed to confirm what it was. He found a deer's hip bone.



  7. You're welcome Hamid. I'm glad you found what you were looking for.