Shed hunting is a popular non-violent winter sport in the Ozarks. After the fall rut, a buck's need for a bragging rack is gone for the year. Decreasing testosterone levels lead to reabsorption of the bone at the antler base and eventual shedding, leaving the antlers on the forest floor. Soon squirrels and wood rats find them and use them for sharpening and shortening their constantly growing incisors and obtaining calcium...unless Barb finds them first. Barb is the family shed hunter and she found this beautiful pair on January 2008.
This pair ended up on our stone fireplace, tied with leather thongs as the center of the display. They remained there until the Spirit of the Great Buck returned 10 years later. Last Tuesday I came into the creek house and found them on the floor with the leather thong neatly sliced in the middle. Wood rats, aka pack rats, Neotoma floridana, are frequent guests and we hear the click of a trap several times a year so I wasn't concerned and tied them back on the wall.
Here is where it gets a little weird. Three days later we were eating dinner at 8PM right beside the wall when they came clattering down to the floor. We hadn't seen or heard any varmit activity and the thong appeared to be cleanly cut. Spooky! The next morning I rubbed Siracha jalapeno sauce on the thongs, tied the cut ends together and hung them back up. I hoped the lip burn of capsicum would dissuade a rat.
The following night at the same time we were eating when they came crashing down again! Again the cut thong looked clean and no scurrying mammals were in sight. I went to bed with the image of the Spirit of the Great Buck attacking me at night with an antler.
|Gnawed, scissor and knife cut.|
I hung them again, this time with the thongs tied to copper wire which was looped over the nail. We returned 18 hours later to find one antler back down on the floor with a chewed thong. I tied it up again and after sitting on the porch working for an hour I returned to the house and found it cut back down again! (You can't make stuff like this up!)
This time I put up a game camera on the post opposite the antlers, hoping to catch the culprit digitally. The next morning the antlers were safe and there was a rat in a trap. The rat had committed suicide in our rat trap rather than be filmed doing its dastardly deed again. The antlers have now remained in place after three weeks.
Case closed (we think), but if we don't make the next meeting, who ya gonna call? Ghost Busters!
And for a pleasant bedtime read to take your mind off that scary tale I would highly recommend this entertaining description of the interaction of termites farming fungus, or is it the fungus that farms the termites?