Monday, November 12, 2012

The Mystery of the Mouse in the Tree

While doing a wildlife survey this weekend, we happened upon a mouse - its head sticking out from a hole in a tree. Was it just the head? Was it still alive (seemed unlikely)? What was it doing there? It was about 9 feet up in the trunk of the tree with no branches nearby. We reached up with a stick and managed to pry it part of the way out - it was whole, definitely dead, and wedged in there pretty tightly.

The wood around the mouse appeared to be recently gouged. It was difficult to see it clearly, but it looked like the marks might have been made by a beak. If it was a beak, that leaves us with the question of what bird could and would do such a thing? The only bird we came up with that would seem likely to have the capability of doing it would be a woodpecker (needing both the ability to comfortably hang on the side of a tree and dig into solid wood), but why would it do so? What other possibilities might we not have considered?

6 comments:

ByronJenifer said...

Do Fishers or Martens cache prey? They would have the ability to hold on while gnawing to enlarge a hole already in existence from woodpeckers.

Jonathan said...

I imagine that they do. Not sure they would stash them where they are still more or less in the open though. Also probably not any around there since it was in a low elevation, second growth, suburbanish park. But I like the thought and it hadn't occurred to me before as something to consider.

Kitty said...

Do squirrels cache animal prey? I've seen them cache other items in trees, not sure if they would do so with a small rodent.

Jonathan said...

Seems like they could. Again it seems like a strange way/place to cache something, though I suppose it may have had a hard time getting it in further and just given up.

Cristina Herrera G. said...

What about shrikes? Although they are known for impaling prey instead of sticking it in a hole on the bark, I imagine one could have experimented a bit with the cacheing method. Did you find this mouse within the range of either shrike species?

Jonathan said...

Looks like northern shrikes are around a little bit in that area. That seems like a better theory than any others I've heard so far.