Saturday, March 1, 2008

What the heck?

Warning: the following post is probably not for the faint-of-heart. But it's a puzzling thing. Read on, if you're interested.

Behold, two cell phone photos of a funny thing we saw today on our farm walk. This completely cleaned-out *huge* fish skeleton was lying on its back about three feet from the edge of the lake. My glove in the photo for scale measures about 9 inches from cuff to fingertip. I couldn't get the colors quite right but look for the tip of the tail in the upper right hand corner of the top photograph. We figure the fish was about 30 inches long. Ick.

I had no idea that there were such large fish in the lake. And I can't figure out how the perfectly stripped skeleton got there. Going through the list of predators that we have seen on the farm: coyote (no), vultures/hawks/eagle (I don't think they fish in lakes), fox (no), maybe a bear? SB and Scott had a bear in their yard a couple of years ago, but wouldn't bears have a hard time fishing in lakes, too? It's not human refuse, I don't think, because not a single bone is broken.

The only thing that makes any sense is the beavers. This fall they completely decimated all of the small trees and shrubs on either side of the dam and cut down a huge tree by the dock. But would they have left such a completely intact skeleton? Maybe so. Could a predator have had an easier time catching a fish like this if the edges of the lake were frozen and the fish got stuck or something? Anybody have any other ideas? Anyone know what kind of fish this is? (I know they're terrible photos...) Are we being punked?

To his credit, Grady left the fish skeleton alone. It must be noted that this was probably only because the bones were picked so clean.

*Edited to add: After much conversation with one of our farriers today, it was decided that this is probably a huge old carp. Gillian spotted him earlier last week with all of his flesh intact. She said his scales were shiny peach and silver.

Vic the farrier told the following story: the last time that he hunted at the farm, he and his companion killed a deer in the bottomland. They field dressed it and left it where it fell in order to do a little more hunting. When they returned less than an hour later, the carcass was covered thickly with crows, who had eaten away the deer's entire hindquarters, leaving every bone intact, in just the way that we found this fish. So the current theory on the fish is that he either died of old age (again, huge!) and was hauled out of the water by a raccoon or the beaver or was killed by one of those two animals. And then the skeleton was picked clean by birds. 'It's the ciiiircle of life---' I guess.

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