How Did This Happen?

     During a mid-day break from bow hunting I took a walk with a .22 in a patch of woods that has traditionally been a good bet for squirrels. I was approaching a very large oak tree and when I was about 10 feet away I noticed the paw of an animal, either a possum or raccoon, sticking out from behind the tree. It was about two feet off the ground and gave me a start. Instinctively I started to shoulder my gun and work the safety off, not on account of wanting either of the aforementioned critters to take home with me but for self defense if need be. An instant later it was clear that whatever this animal was it posed no threat. The paw was that of a hind leg and it was not clinging to the tree trunk but was hanging limp. The animal was dead.

An example of the odd things you can happen upon in the woods.
It’s not clear how this raccoon ended up dead in the hollow of this tree.

     As I came around the tree I could plainly see that the dead animal was a raccoon. This particular tree split into two trunks and the raccoon’s head was tucked into the crevice.  There was scant evidence of other animals picking at it and there were only a few flies buzzing around. All things considered it didn’t look like it had been there for too long.
     I’m really not sure what to think about this situation. My first thought was that maybe a bobcat had killed it and drug it up into the crevice. But I’m not sure that bobcats cache carcasses and if they do it seems like an all too obvious place to stash one. Coyotes and other animals would have no trouble getting it. I think the most likely scenario is that the raccoon got stuck. It’s two hind legs and front left leg are visible but it’s right front leg appears to be stretched over it’s head, reaching into the hollow between the trunks. I suppose if the wind had been blowing hard the trunks could have shifted, pinning the ‘coon in place or, if it wanted something in that hollow bad enough it could have simply wedged it’s paw in and got stuck that way. Either way, it couldn’t have been a pleasant way to go out.

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