This work is supported by the generous backers who adore my cat stories at Patreon.com/amberunmasked and they also get first access to what’s happening with my books and podcast.
Where We Left Off:
We believe we have found an almost perfectly intact Jersey devil-deer skeleton!
Lady in the Death House:
Right after the discovery of the Jersey devil-deer body, which was mostly the remaining skeleton, Gus found a tiny victim. We were on Bunny Hollow’s trail together and I thought he paused to smell some poop nuggets. It was not poop. Sadly it was another body.
Three weeks ago, I presented Case File No. 42-146 where we discovered evidence of the murder of Theo Sciurus. Due to the lack of a body, but the condition of the amount of fur and skin found, we had to rule that Theo could not have survived. There were two suspects: Silvia DeCitta of the blue jay gang and one of Theo’s wife, Synthia Sciurus. When Silvia DeCitta was questioned, she had enough information to make us suspect that she might have had something to do with the murder. Many questions were left unanswered. Was she hired to kill Theo? Could Synthia have hired her to kill Theo? Where was Synthia hiding? Or, was Synthia also in grave danger?
We got our answers when Gus found Synthia’s body right there in the middle of Bunny Hollow, exposed without any attempt to hide her remains.
I put on some gloves and carefully gave a brief examination to look for what could have happened to this poor little squirrel. It’s not easy to discuss without being graphic about it. Synthia’s front hands were in terrible condition. The fur and skin removed leaving her raw muscles. The pain must have been extraordinary. There were some other small shaped wounds but not an extensive amount of bleeding. I suspect one of her major organs like her heart or a lung had been pierced as the final cause of death.
If I didn’t look at her hands, she didn’t look like she was in bad shape. Rigor mortis had set in. I tried researching what that could indicate for squirrels. The smaller the body, the quicker the response from a lack of oxygen (hypoxia). In humans, rigor mortis sets in by about twelve hours after death. In dogs, it could be around three hours but depends on the size of the dog. The squirrel is so tiny, I estimate (without zero science background) that it might have been murdered only 1-2 hours before Gus discovered it.
Since I wasn’t going to perform a necropsy on Synthia Sciurus and I honestly don’t think I would be able to remember high school biology lab dissection guidelines, I wanted to make sure she was respectfully handled. I took Synthia’s body and placed it under the arched branches of a bush and placed an already eaten corn cob right next to her as a marker so I would be able to check the spot in the following days.
It didn’t take long. Three days later, Synthia’s body was gone.
- Did Synthia Sciurus rise from the dead? Was it an ascension or something grim like a vampire, zombie or necromancing?
- Was the body of the squirrel taken by a scavenger?
- Did the rest of the squirrel community remove Synthia’s body to have their own ceremony/ritual?
Plus, we were left with few suspects. There was Sylvia DeCitta, the blue jay. She was aggressive and it was entirely possible, but unlikely. Squirrels are about the same size as blue jays. And the jays around here are fed well.
We’ve also had some increased red-tailed hawk activity. Lovely to see. According to AllAboutBirds.org, it seems most likely that one of the hawks is our murderer. Perhaps there’s something in their behavior that would have them leave their victim for a while and come back later. Or perhaps, Synthia was killed by a hawk, but someone else stole her body.
“Mammals make up the bulk of most Red-tailed Hawk meals. Frequent victims include voles, mice, wood rats, rabbits, snowshoe hares, jackrabbits, and ground squirrels. The hawks also eat birds, including pheasants, bobwhite, starlings, and blackbirds; as well as snakes and carrion. Individual prey items can weigh anywhere from less than an ounce to more than 5 pounds.” — allaboutbirds.org
Oliver and Gus met to discuss the findings — once Oliver was willing to leave the comfort of his favorite afghan blankie on the lap of a human. We were hoping to have scavenging birds clean the bones of the devil-deer; and have smaller animals clean the squirrel’s remains leaving the bones for us to keep, but that didn’t work out. The scavengers have been steadily circling overhead which is good. Though sometimes I have to wonder if they’re eyeing up Gus for a meal. Red-tailed hawks won’t eat cats, but we have some larger birds around. In this case, we lost the chance to keep the squirrel in such a way that the bones would be left behind. Their bones are so tiny, it’s not like we have ever found them lying around. They’ve probably been swallowed and pooped out.
We also researched whether that unusually large crow could have been either the murderer or the scavenger. The answer is no.
“Despite its tendency to eat roadkill, the American Crow is not specialized to be a scavenger, and carrion is only a very small part of its diet. Though their bills are large, crows can’t break through the skin of even a gray squirrel. They must wait for something else to open a carcass or for the carcass to decompose and become tender enough to eat.” — allaboutbirds.org
We do have a variety of owls here, but I have yet to see any for proper identification. The closest bet, if this perp was an owl, would be the Barred Owl which will have squirrels in its diet unlike the Barn Owl which does not.
What if it’s not a bird at all?
As you may know, there are two other black cats who live freely in the neighborhood. I’m not sure what has happened to the white spotted cat nor the tabby. In past month, the most frequent “guest” has been a Gus Impostor, a short-hair, stocky black cat with luminous golden eyes you can see from a distance. It is a sexy panther beast. I believe the presence of this black cat is why Gus has taken interest in urinating and pooping outside more often. It used to be a rarity for emergencies only when he was far from his litterbox. Now he sniffs around and squats to leave a mark often. He still wants to go zooming after he’s done though which makes my patrolling hard because I don’t want to run and I have to worry about which direction he’ll head.
This cat could easily have captured, killed, and gnawed on the squirrels for food. Maybe it needed to come back to Synthia after the rigor mortis for a more tender meal — honestly I don’t know enough about meat to know if that would be too rotten for a feline.
This Guster Nabu Impostor needs a name for reference. Fauxster? Faugus? Faustus! Yes, we’ll go with Faustus or Faust for now. Those glowing eyes sure seem like something supernatural.
Graphic images under accordion.
Oliver, Gus, and I examined the photos closely. There are injuries to Synthia’s left proximal hind quarter which look more consistent with the bite marks of an animal with two protruding teeth — vampire style. The damage to the hands occurred during the battle. This answers some of the questions we had: there wasn’t any blood; there were some signs of feeding but not a lot; then the body was gone. We believe we have a vampire-squirrel now.
Would this exonerate Synthia from the theory that she hired a hitman to murder her husband? Theo’s body wasn’t found either, though there was so much fur left behind. It is looking like there is a Vampuirrel Master around looking to turn some of our backyard squirrels into supernatural creatures.
Case Status: Closed