Last Thursday morning, we got up to find the big pile of seed on the deck that had spilled from the hanging bird feeder was gone. Missing!
We had seen an Arctic hare the night before, our first sighting at home. He was half white and half brown, and at first I worried that he’d been eaten by the Arctic Fox Mars saw dashing through the backyard Wednesday.
Then I realized … we’ve been studying Evidence and Investigation in science, and this was the perfect chance for the children to practice their skills.
Had there been a murder in our own backyard? Who had stolen the birdseed?
First, we made a list of all the animals we’ve seen in the backyard this Spring. Besides the hare and fox, there’s Bailey, the neighbor’s golden retriever. There’s a family of red-backed voles that overwintered in the subnivean space under the snow on our back deck. We’ve actually seen squirrels and deer eating the seed. And we’ve seen two moose (admittedly, they were eating my lilies, not the bird seed).
Next, we collected evidence. There was the missing birdseed, of course.
There were suspicious tracks in the snow, which we photographed for evidence.
We tried to photograph the tufts of hair in situ, but the photos were a bit blurry because the good camera batteries were dead, so we were forced to use an iPad instead of a camera.
But we carefully collected the the tufts in a plastic bag, and photographed them later.
We also noted the lack of evidence: there were no remains to be found, nor was the snow spotted with blood spatter.
Next, we studied the research (i.e. Googled) to determined motives and backgrounds of all our suspects.
The lack of blood evidence and remains sorta ruled out a murder. Foxes can be very neat and leave few remains, but some blood evidence would have remained. Nor would the fox have eaten the birdseed, given the prevalence of their preferred food source: small rodents like voles and squirrels.
Plus, if the fox that apparently ate our cat in our garage is any evidence? They leave the organs they don’t like, much like a house cat will deposit mouse organs for the homeowner as a gift. Or a See What I Did!
So we ruled out the fox.
The voles and the squirrels were serious suspects, except that both have reddish brown fur. And neither is big enough to clean up the pile of seed we’d seen the night before.
We had to consider Bailey — except, again, his fur is yellowish, not gray and white. And he’d have nosed at the door for a bit of petting and attention, not quietly eaten the seed and slipped away.
The arctic hare could have been a real possibility, but like the voles and squirrels, he’s a bit small to have eaten the whole pile. Sure, he’s the size of a very fat housecat, but it was a big pile. And his hair — while definitely white and brownish (rather than reddish or yellowish) is soft and fine, not coarse.
That left two large animals: deer and moose.
In the end, we concluded the culprint is our resident doe.
This time of year, she should be shedding her winter coat (our 22 cms of snow today notwithstanding). It probably itches. We figure she rubbed against the deck railing to scratch, which explains the loose hair.
My Personal Conclusion
This homeschooling gig is a gas!!