Friday, March 26, 2010

Dry Bones

No matter how prepared you are, the desert can be a pretty inhospitable place.  We had cell phones, we had plenty of water so we weren't really worried about ourselve, yet we found evidence in our last couple of weeks out in the desert that it can still be cruel to those that don't have these luxuries.

I noticed from some of the other logs that are appearing on some of the caches we found the first weekend out at the Groundspeak series that several of the cachers found the same thing as we did; dried out bones.  The first thing I noticed as we approached the cache was a pelvis, bleached by the sun, completely free of any sinewy material that would indicate that it hadn't been out there for a long time.  These bones were picked clean, so they'd definitely been out there for awhile.

Near the pelvis, we found two sections of vertebrae, fairly intact and two long bones, what I thought to be thigh bones.  The sizes of the long bones gave me the impression that this particular animal was probably a coyote.  But then, we found a jawbone which messed up those theories post haste.

The jawbone was of a herbivore.  Cutting teeth in the front, with molars in the back for chewing, with no canines for ripping like you'd see with a carnivore or possibly an omnivore like a desert wild pig.  The size indicated a deer, but I was puzzled since deer aren't usually found here.  Yes, you will see them, but they're usually found at higher elevations where the food is a lot more plentiful.

There were a lot of green plants around, but it's spring time in the desert and it's expected that green plants will be around.  They will flower soon, produce their seeds which will be scattered by the wind and then they will die, only to come back after the winter rains.  There is not much food during most times of the year out here, so it still didn't make sense.  The only thing I could think of is a deer got lost and wandered into this region, perhaps already sick or injured and the harsh conditions finished it off.

Whatever the possibility, it gave us a reminder that most animals don't have the luxuries that we have when it comes to our health.  Death in the wild, is usually not pretty and I would suspect that very few animals die a peaceful death.  The animals get recycled quickly as is the way with nature, so that they will give back to the plants what they took from them when they were living.  How long these particular bones had been out there is anyone's guess.  My hope is they stay for a longer period of time and aren't picked up by others as they hike through the desert.  Let the sleeping bones lie.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
Groundspeak Series - Power Caching - by HDGC

Profile for Webfoot


chaosmanor said...

Those were definitely deer bones. After we got back, I looked up deer anatomy on-line and those jaws are definitely deer jaws. I was as surprised as you, but I guess that deer will wander out here a lot more frequently than we think after dry winters. And the last few winters before this one were certainly on the dry side. They definitely were interesting, and should serve as a reminder than none of us is completely protected from the hazards of the desert. And Southern California is almost *all* desert, in one form or another.

Erika Jean said...

Neat find, but too bad for the deer :-/ I found a whole skull of something once - not sure what it was...

We also found the bones of SNAKE head. I'm sure some bird of prey had gotten it... and the dried white bones were left. It was kind of a scary find. Luckily I haven't encountered a rattler yet! they ARE out there though! yikes!

Webfoot said...

As long as you make noise as a group, you're usually OK regarding rattlesnakes. Don't put your hand where you can't see, use a walking stick as a probe.

I've encountered one rattlesnake, a big five footer. It wasn't too pleased to be disturbed from its spot. It rattled, we made a wide berth around it and everything was cool.

DogMom said...

Neat find! I always enjoy reading these; they're like a very well-detailed, well-put-together travelogue of "wherever Webby Goes". Thanks for continuing to post these!