Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Deer Leg

We woke yesterday morning expecting several inches or more of new snow. The weather forecast was for 2-8 inches. But nothing; the storm moved off-shore near Cape Cod, before reaching this far north. I was mildly disappointed as some fresh snow would have been nice.

What we do have is COLD. Four degrees this morning. A trend that will continue for several days, at least into the weekend, which coincides with a full moon on Saturday.

The clouds cleared out early yesterday morning, after the snowstorm petered out to the south. Blue sky helped raise the temperature into the 20s, although stiff winds kept it brisk outside. Woodland trails are now a mix of hard, crusty snow and icy patches on well-worn routes. Kodi and I returned to the Sweet Trail, where Kodi has a nose for animal parts. Last year he discovered the remains of a moose carcass; yesterday it was a deer leg partly buried in the snow.

He was proud of his prize and I let him play with it for a few minutes, before I took some photos and then hung the leg in a tree. Kodi was dismayed that we left it behind.
Deer have many glands, including several on their legs. The interdigital glands are found between the toes of each foot. They discharge some smelly, fatty oils, alerting other deer to their presence and social status. The metatarsal gland is located on the outside of the hind legs, just above the hoof. A round ring of whitish hairs highlights the gland. Interestingly, biologists are unsure of exactly its purpose. The tarsal glands are found on the inside of each hind leg, at the hock. They are covered by a thick tuft of long hair. Deer urinate on the tarsal glands, making them nice and smelly to their fellow deer. No wonder dogs (and other canids) are prone to chase deer, with all those fatty smells coming from the deer.

You can see the locations of all three of these glands in the following photo collage.
With the knowledge of where the tarsal and metatarsal glands are located, you can now easily determine that this was a hind leg that Kodi found and also whether it was the left or right hind leg. I'll leave that for you to ponder (until tomorrow), just as Kodi is dreaming of that leg that is now hung up in a small pine tree.

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