Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Squirrel skull

This is the skull from the presumed fisher kill site I posted about
earlier. I cooked it (simmered gently for about 15 minutes) to remove
the rest of the meat and get a better look at the bones. It smelled
something like lamb stew, in case anyone is wondering. Funny, I thought
it would smell more like chicken for some reason, but, no, closer to lamb.

I used Mark Elbroch's book on animal skulls to ID it as red squirrel, as
suspected. But what is more interesting is the jagged edge around the
brain case. I don't think a fisher's huge canines would leave such a
delicate edging on a little squirrel skull. Perhaps that's more likely
the work of scavenging rodents, aging the kill at something more like
hours, rather than minutes, I would guess. So my fear that I was the
one who scared off the fisher was nothing more than self referential
ideation. A common trap.

How long does it take for rodents to enter the site and do this? Maybe
Dan's cameras will answer that question one day.

Incidentally, Elbroch's book on skulls is tremendous, especially the
initial section on comparative anatomy. I seem to recall learning about
skulls in the distant past, with a totally different
mission.........something to do with relief of human suffering and
reducing human mortality....Far less interesting than peering into the
private lives of other species.


  1. I've actually got a camera set up right now on a bait pile of boiled skulls, but so far the only brain-eaters that have shown up have been zombies.

    What distinguishes red squirrel skulls from grey squirrel? I assume grey are larger? Anything else?

  2. Janet, I have a gray squirrel skull, compliments of a neighborhood fisher, if you'd like for comparison. Dan - human or critter zombies? Please post pictures.

  3. Yes, the overall size of red sq. skull is smaller than that of gray. Also the relative lengths of the nasal bones of red sq. are shorter. There are other differences, too, but those features could not be seen in my specimen because it was partially destroyed (by zombie, perhaps, given your recent findings).

  4. I don't see fine detail with my eyes/screen, but the sutures knitting cranial bones together kinda look like mouse-gnawed bone. And I would also think raptor...

  5. Wendy, I'll send you a copy of the higher resolution photo which wouldn't fit on this blog. The edging sort of follows the the suture lines, but not exactly. I'm not sure what that means, though. The rest of the skull was not there, so something either ate it, or made off with it.