not for the queasy
We got snowed upon again last night. Fortunately, the leks I was heading out to check are in sandy country to the northeast, so I didn't have to worry about getting stuck or making ruts in the roads.
Other folks were not having a good morning. They closed the interstate last night because of the blizzard (more than 16" in some spots), and it was still closed at 0830. Lots of semis backed up on every exit. Lots of radio traffic between the patrol and just about everybody else. Including one game warden in Capitol City who was checking with a local patrolman on when their part of the road would be open. Apparently his young daughter was stranded overnight in the next city down the road. They couldn't give him good news on when the road might open.
Checked four leks this morning, driving through 1-2" of virgin snow. Had grouse strutting on all four, which was a pleasant surprise. As far as I know, the second strutting ground hadn't been used since 1993. The third lek has to be counted from nearly two miles away, and with the snow cover and overcast morning, the birds were nearly impossible to see. Rechecked them after the fourth lek, when the light was better, and saw at least 18 cocks. Heeler sisters had lots of opportunities to run this morning, so they were happy, too.
IF YOU ARE QUEASY, SENSITIVE, PREGNANT OR TRYING TO GET PREGNANT, YOU PROBABLY SHOULD NOT READ ANY MORE OF THIS ENTRY. LIKEWISE IF AUTO ACCIDENTS UPSET YOU.
You've been warned.
On the way home we stopped to check an antelope doe that had been hit and killed on the county road. It was a good, solid hit. She terminated the functioning of the pickup that smashed into her on Wednesday night. (I know the particulars, because one of the gals that works with my wife commutes on this road regularly and told me all about it on Friday). I check the doe's teeth. At least four years old, not much more. Eagles and/or ravens and magpies have eaten her top hip down to the bone. Otherwise, she is intact.
After a tough winter like we just had, you have two main concerns when you're managing an antelope population. First is how many died in the winter? Still working on that as the snow melts off the country, but it looks like they fared better than we were expecting.
Second question is, how many does were so nutritionally stressed that they resorbed their fetuses? If things get tough, the doe antelope's body shuts off flow to the placentas and she will use her fetuses as a last energy reserve, absorbing their bodies and leaving behind a black mass of bones to be aborted out. The low fawn production can do as much damage to your herd as the winter losses. So the question is, how many of these surviving does are actually pregnant, and how many have aborted? Without waiting until summer, there is only one way to find out.
I'm not packing my good Gerber knife like I should. Took it off for the Carlsbad trip (some communities and malls frown on folks packing large knives on their belt) and forgot to put it back on. The leatherman will do. Not like I'm doing a full necropsy or butchering for human consumption. Just a quick cut in and look.
I slice her open just in front of the right hip, which is on top. She's green inside, literally. I was hoping for a little better, since its been cool. I slice through the gut wall, and there's the butt of a fawn. I would use the technical term of fetus, but since it has hair, I call it a fawn. As usual, the small hooves are bright yellow. She was female, and I can see the banding of white and red on the neck that would have been her unique marking if she had lived.
She's not in her horn of the uterus, however. That has been blown apart by the impact like a balloon. At least it was quick. I can smell the amniotic fluid as I pull her out to see if she would have had a sibling. I don't remember the smell of human amniotic fluid from when the eldest son was born (he was a c-section, and I got to watch), but with antelope and deer it is a mildly unpleasant (to me: most folks feel more strongly) combination of blood, urine and old barn. I reach deep into the doe, shoving her rumen and intestines aside. Yep, a second fawn. Also female. This one is a bloody pulp, like that whole side of the doe. Easy to see which side got hit, and again, a very quick end.
I gently slide the first fawn back into its mother's body. No real reason to. Sooner or later a coyote or fox will come along and discover a great feast to give to their pups (which should be born by now). And that which we called antelope will become some form of canid instead.
So the winter wasn't that tough, at least not where this doe was.
I can still smell her on me. The amniotic fluid, being organic, soaks into your skin and stays with you. Perhaps for days. I checked a doe deer the same way just down the road a couple weeks ago, and the wife could still smell her at bedtime. So part of what we used to call antelope is now part of me.
I don't mind.
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