Sunday, 7 April 2013

A Complete Fox Skeleton ?

At children's Saturday football, a few weeks ago, Dave informed me that he has been watching a dead fox decompose under a hedge over the last year as he walks his dog through the fields and that now it was reduced to a skeleton and was I interested, was I interested ??

We met up at his house and I went with him to see if we could collect all of the bones, as I still intend to try to reconstruct full skeletons of the common wild animals - fox, badger, rabbit etc. I have buried many and tried to do this before but there are always bones missing and as I rooted about under the hedge picking up the fox bones it became clear that I would be very lucky to find all of the pieces. I do currently have a badger buried in the vegetable garden and, cunningly, wrapped in thin wire mesh to stop little animals stealing bones underground. The fox skeleton was largely intact but once you start using a penknife to dig out toe bones you quickly realise that the chances of collecting the many miniscule metatarsals are very slim. Then just when you think you have everything you find a vertibra a few feet away and begin to wonder if other pieces have also absconded in the beaks of crows or the mouths of rats. The challenge is comparable to taking all of the pieces of an airfix kit off their boards and, before gluing anything together, tossing the lot into a flowerbed and then looking for everything a few months later. I think that the only way to get all of the bones is to rot a complete specimen down in a dustbin of cold water until it becomes soft and the bones fall away. Cold water maceration is a well known and effective technique but it takes a year or so and smells a bit so the next challenge is to find a place to site the dustbin, offers anyone ??

CSI Somerset - Regarding the fox, the body had fallen about 100yrds from the A39 and I think it was probably hit by a car. On close inspection there was a significant fracture of the femur, snapping off the ball at the head of the bone and an impact fracture to the back of the skull. These injuries would fit with a collision with the front of a moving car and the fatally injured animal probably stumbled into the field and then settled beneath the hedge, and now it's in a bag in my shed.

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