Thursday, May 15, 2014

BONELUST SCIENCE LESSON - Bone Eating Squirrels

Today's Science Lesson: This Is A Well Gnawed On Boar Skull I Wedged Between Two Trees. I Toss Bones In The Woods As Well. Why? For Squirrels & Other Wildlife That Rely On Them For Minerals & Other Nutrients They Can't Get In Their Normal Diet.
The remains of a wild boar skull wedged into a tree on my property that has been very well gnawed out the past 10 years or so.

As a bone collector it is always important to leave some bones for the wild animals. I have tossed out bones around my entire property for them and have spots where I leave piles like in the first photo.


BONELUST SCIENCE LESSON - As a bone collector it is always important to leave some bones for the wild animals. I have tossed out bones around my entire property for them and have spots where I leave piles like in the first photo.

Why do I do this? Most bone collectors have found bones, skulls or even antlers or turtle shells with teeth gnaw marks on them in the outdoors. This is likely caused by squirrels in most cases.

They do this for two reasons: A) As a source of minerals sparse in their normal diet & B) To help keep their teeth from getting too long. Their teeth are always growing & if they get too long it can cause the squirrel to starve or even have the teeth impale them. Eventually resulting in the death of the squirrel. Other animals gnaw on bones for similar reasons as well. Like rabbits. This overgrowth of teeth is called malocclusion.

There was even a giraffe that was photographed recently found gnawing on an impala skull likely for similar reasons.

A Well Gnawed On Wild Boar Or Deer Bone Found In The Woods: Squirrels & Other Animals Eat Them For Nutrients They Can't Get From Their Regular Diet
A well gnawed on deer or wild boar bone.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

BONELUST Q&A: "How do I get the bones from this small animal?"

This is one of the smallest skulls in my collection at approx .5" long, from a Carolina Anole. The fact that I have some of these in good condition & complete is quite a task for me.




Give me an entire adult deer & I can process it for the bones no problem. But it is the tiny reptiles, amphibians, rodents, birds & etc that I have the hardest time processing. You can't macerate like you do with medium sized animals (raccoon, opossum, etc) & up (deer, boar, cattle). The bones can literally be eaten up by the bacteria that defleshes larger bones.

You also can't simply let dermestid beetles help with a skeleton this small and forget about it. I tried, and this is all they left me from 8 full lizards. Although I may try that again with a more controlled environment where I watch more closely with fewer beetles.

In the meantime, it comes down to painstakingly slowly & carefully removing the flesh by hand with tweezers & scalpel after rehydrating it with plain water. A very tedious process. Once I myself take the time to master this process I will make a blog about it.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

BONELUST Q&A: "Can't you get leprosy from armadillos?

First off, always be sanitary when handling any dead animals to process for their bone. Wear high quality waterproof gloves. Don't touch anything dead then cross contaminate like touching your face, clothes, steering wheel, or anything you may touch once you remove the gloves later. See my related blog post for more info on the sanitary concerns of bone processing/collecting.

Nine-banded Armadillo Young & My Foot - Dasypus novemcinctus
From back in 2003, a litter of armadillo were born under my house.

Armadillos are unfortunate in that are among the few known species that can contract leprosy. I want to stress the word CAN here. No, not all armadillos are carriers of leprosy as far too many people believe. But they can get it just as humans, mangabey monkeys, rabbits and mice can. It is too often misunderstood that all armadillos have the disease, they do not.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the late 15th century, leprosy was unknown in the New World. Given that armadillos are native to the New World, at some point they must have acquired the disease from humans. This is a scientific fact. So it is a matter of susceptibility NOT that one species alone is the main carrier spreading the disease. 

"Oh Hai" Nine-banded 
Armadillo Young - Dasypus novemcinctus

In order for a human to get leprosy from an armadillo it has to be infected first of all. Secondly you'd have to eat and/or heavily handle it. Armadillo to human spread cases are concentrated in Louisiana and Texas, where some people hunt, skin and eat armadillos.

Only about 150 to 250 people in the United States each year even get leprosy and not all of those cases were caused by armadillos. So, just be very careful when handling an armadillo dead or alive and avoid eating it and you're very unlikely to ever get it. Approximately 95% of people are naturally immune to the disease anyway and sufferers are no longer infectious after as little as two weeks of treatment if the disease is recognized and treated early on.