about this blog



I started this blog in 2008. It started mainly as a way of tracking the evolution of my dry garden, and that led to an interest in photography and in the creatures that live in the garden. It's still about the garden and wildlife, but now my passion is thinking about how we humans can learn to co-exist with wild animals and plants, especially in urban areas.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

dead bodies in the garden


Forensic pathologists conduct autopsies to determine the cause of death. I'm no forensic pathologist. I'm also not a zoologist. So before I can speculate about the cause of death, I need to work out what animal these were, when they were warm blooded living mammals. This post may seem horrible and grisly, but in the bid to attract wildlife to the garden, there are bound to be dead, as well as alive, bodies ... it's the cycle of life.


The skeleton in the photos above is of a ring tailed possum. The reason I can confidently identify it as such is because I remember seeing it soon after it died. How and why it died is a mystery. I have since learned that if you find a dead possum or other marsupial, you should immediately check its pouch to make sure there is not a baby there.

After that, there are a number of options regarding disposal of the carcass, like putting it in a rubbish bin or burying it. I just leave them where they are and let birds and beetles and flies and other insects get nourishment and strip the carcass down to the bones. This is what happened and the possum skeleton remains in the same position that it died in, with the backbone and tail bones no longer connected but hardly disturbed and still in position.



When I first noticed the tail hanging out of the possum box, I was thrilled to have such a cute photo opportunity. I wondered whether the possum had a hot tail and was cooling it while it slept.

When the tail remained in the same position after a few days, I started to be concerned. To make sure my suspicions were correct I went out with a torch at night to check on it. It was still there. The possum must be dead, I assumed, although I haven't climbed up to check. How and why it died is unknown.

possum entrails
headless possum

The possum on the footpath had been viciously attacked. Something had ripped its head off and its entrails had been ripped out as well. The fact that it hadn't been eaten implied the killer killed for the sake of killing, not for food. I assume that would have been a fox or maybe a cat.

When I found another dead carcass in the garden, I first thought it was a possum. Only when I looked more closely at the tail did I realize it wasn't a brushtail or ringtail possum tail. Nor was it a rat's tail. What could it  be? Maybe a dog or a cat, or maybe a rare black fox? Black foxes are part of Australia's introduced fauna and there have been occasional reported sightings since the 1920s. They are a darker variant of the silver fox. Whatever it was, I wonder how it came to die in the garden.

mystery tail

14 comments:

  1. ... Reality of the garden - blooming and wilting, emerging and dying...
    This summer, more than before, I found dead creatures in my garden: rat, mouth, birds, etc. I almost cried when I saw a rat, it was still alive, and it was painful to see a live creature dying. Recently, I found a bird without a head, its feathers were all over the lawn, telling about a fight. Nearby, our neighbors' cat was noticed - indoors cat, they just recently let him out...

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    1. Hi Tatyana, I agree it is reality that death is part of life, but I wish people would keep cats inside ...

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  2. Everything returns to the earth. All creatures are born and eventurally die. Nature isn't always gentle or kind. Sometimes, it is cruel and violent. Yet, it's all part of the rhythm of ... life.

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    1. Hi Jane, interesting - applies to us - human species - too.

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  3. last month we went to a talk about urban caracal. Sadly many of the few there are, are road kill victims.

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    1. Enormous numbers of animals die here too through road kill. I know someone who's a vegetarian unless he finds fresh road kill. Then he eats it.

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  4. It's not a pretty sight, but you are right, there are bound to be dead bodies as well as living creatures.

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  5. The cycle of life, we rarely see any corpses as the foxes and badgers will remove anything newly dead although I have come across the odd squirrel skull which makes me wonder did it actually die up in the trees and the skeleton eventually drop to ground?

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    1. HI Rick, this comment reminds me that the tail is still hanging out of the nesting box, a little ragged now. I think I should climb up and clean out the box, but I keep putting it off ...

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  6. We have not found too many carcasses in the garden...usually voles or frogs which are easy to identify.

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    1. I don't think we have voles here, and I wish I had frogs. I guess if you have critters alive, they're going to die sooner or later.

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  7. Interesting! I wonder whose tail that is. I would've left the carcass too, better to feed some insects than remove it and put it in a bin where it's of no use or benefit to anything. Poor little guy.

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    1. thanks, Amy. I feel sorry for them too, especially the one that died in the nesting box that was supposed to provide security!

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