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Mystery of the Cache

Several weeks ago I wrote in my post about planting seedling trees that I accidentally dug up a cache of clean red fresh chunks of meat.  I’d noticed a freshly dug area right by a rock and thought it would be easier to plant there.  To my surprise out came about 4 or 5 pieces of meat, about 3″ or 4″ size.

Where the meat was cached by the mystery animal

Koda immediately re-cached them.  Here is a video of him caching a found deer leg out on a hike for reference.

I wondered who put that meat there.  It smelled quite fresh, although it probably was buried when there had been some snow on the ground.

It snowed a few inches the next day and while walking in the woods by the cabin, I noticed Black Bear tracks.  The bear had walked the trail, circled around the tree at the base of my spring, then walked back the way he came and up the hillside.  Could that bear be the culprit?

I work once a week at the Museum in the Natural History Lab preparing specimens.  I asked my boss, the assistant curator, for his opinion.

“Could it have been a bear or coyote?”

“Coyotes eat everything all up.  They don’t cache.”  he said.  “Maybe a crow or raven.”

Yesterday I walked to the upper area to check on my seedlings.  We’d had rain and bits of snow so I figured they’d be fine.  All looked good, even putting on new growth.  But then I noticed that seedling in the old cache hole.  The protective cage was scattered, the plant was dug up and pushed aside, the rocks I’d dug up and used for mulch were helter-skelter, and a nice hole was there that had all the markings of a larger animal–kind of like my dog might dig.  Whoever dug that hole was definitely NOT a corvid!

The animal had come back looking for his cache.  I felt badly.  He or she must have been sorely disappointed, a meal gone without.  Koda was all over the place with his nose and although I didn’t see anything, I assumed that animal had left a calling card there to let other animals know this was his place.

I found where Koda had cached the meat, dug up a piece and froze it for later I.D.

Frozen piece of cached meat. Notice hairs.

I went back and asked my boss the question again.

“Well, could’ve been a badger.”

The mystery continues.  I’m going to find out who that animal is.  Any hints, readers?

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