While marking spots for trees and shrubs to be planted in a riparian buffer at Fruhlings Farm in Claremont last week, I noticed an antler sticking out of the grass. I grabbed it and started to pull it out only to find that it was attached to a skull and another antler!
If that wasn't exciting enough, there were even more bones in the grass - a whole skeleton, complete with backbone, ribs, lower jaws and pelvic bones. I was over the moon with excitement thinking I could definitely use these for environmental education lessons.
The bones must have been there for a while as they were bleached clean - no skin or flesh to be found on them. And since deer antlers fall of in the spring and they immediately start growing new ones, this deer must have died in the fall or winter.
There weren't many teeth marks on the antlers either. I've never found a whole deer skull in the woods before, much less without any rodent teeth marks on them. Calcium is a limited resource in the forest and rodents' teeth continue to grow their whole lives. They need to chew on hard objects to keep them from growing too long.
You can tell a lot about the natural history of an animal and its role in an ecosystem by taking a closer look at its skull.