Monday, February 23, 2009

Colorado adventure

I see that the pics appeared, but not the text of Scott's message. Here
is the text:

Janet / Bob - here are a couple of interesting shots from our ski up and
down New York Mountain, just south of Eagle, Colorado, March of 2003.
The dead and buried "whatever" was at about 9,500 feet, and the slashes
in the tree were all around it. The tracks were at about 10,500 feet,
or several miles above the kill. I attached one more picture in here
just for good measure, to show you what we skied up, then down. I think
the summit is close to 13,000.




  1. The tree marks are weird. The don't resemble anything a claw, tooth or antler could make. I won't even guess on what the kill was - just not clear enough. The footprints, however - WOLF! Of course, there's no way to know if any wolf was connected to the kill, since the tracks were kind of far away, but at least they were in the vicinity.

  2. For anyone interested, here is how I answered Scott:

    Thanks for sending the pictures. You are correct, the carcass is a "whatever". I can't see enough to narrow it down much at all. An elk is a good guess, though, because not much else would hang around at that high an elevation in winter. It's high even for an elk. From what I read, neither big horn sheep nor mule deer go that high in winter.

    When a body is that far gone, it is often impossible to tell how it died. It's not necessarily the work of a predator. Starvation of the old and the weak in winter is not unusual, and once dead, it gets scavenged by anything and everything. Most predators will happily scavenge. If it was in fact killed by a predator, I guess a mountain lion is most likely. Bears would be hibernating with that much snow on the ground. I don't think they have grizzlies there, anyway, and it would be very unusual for a black bear to kill such a large animal, unless the latter was already very weakened for some other reason.

    Wolves are thought not to be re-established yet in Colorado. Or so I've read. They were extirpated from the state many years ago, and may be making their way southward from Yellowstone, but only occasional loners, probably dispersing animals in search of a mate and unclaimed habitat, have been noted in CO.

    Which makes the tracks you show interesting. The first one is definitely canid, and the 2nd probably is, too. It's probably too big for coyote, especially for western coyote, which are smaller than our easterners. If a lone wolf, why would it be hanging around at 10,500 ft??? Seems like a loner where wolves are not yet established would have the pick of the habitat, and would hang out in a choice location with lots of easy prey, where it would have a better chance of finding food and another wolf to pal around with. Would someone bring their dog skiing???

    The marks on the tree look fresh, still yellowish-brown, but too fat for claw marks. Could they be antler marks of a thrashing, struggling animal, trying to escape from a mt lion? Marks from deer antler tines are usually much narrower, but maybe elk antlers leave fatter marks?? I don't know. Maybe the tree species has something to do with the strange appearance. It looks like aspen, a rapidly growing tree (I think). Could the marks have been made the previous spring, then widened a lot during rapid summer growth? The top marks, at least, are starting to gray, so they might not have been created at the same time the animal died.

    Wish I could say something more definite.

  3. Very thorough analyzation, Janet. This is a puzzle, for sure. I can't imagine someone taking a dog with them while downhill skiing - especially in that terrain. But no wolves in Colorado, huh? That shoots my theory. If you send me a copy of your final e-mail to Scott, I can forward the whole story to my tracker acquaintance in Denver. Maybe she'll have a clue.