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Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Seven: Case File No. 38-350

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Where We Left Off:

Part of the detective agency team was dispatched to clean up a crime scene involving snakes and a mouse.

Devil in New Jersey:

By January (2024), the trail cameras weren’t picking up much in terms of critter and creature activities. The one thing we can count on is having white-tailed deer and Jersey devil-deer. Before the weeks of the deep freeze and snow, we had some excellent days for exploring outside. It was wonderful for me to see Gus excited about going into the woods and climbing trees again.

Gus sitting comfortably tall on a tree branch

Being out there under the canopy of the tall trees that are still standing, Gus and I spent a lot of time breathing in that fresh air. He perched at a spot about ten feet off the ground and sensed the critters below the leaves on the ground. I utilized that time to relax which does include climbing and taking photos of Gus because that’s a relaxing activity to me. I did have enough minutes to soak in nature, forest-bathing as its called. I needed it. The humans of the household have been stressed out. I feel like that needs to be triple-underlined and three times bigger in size to emphasize how tense it is here.

Gus took the left set of trees which has a slightly changed configuration after two intense wind storms. I noticed the horizontal tree was a lot closer to the ground and easier for me to climb on and over. Things have sunken down. I went over to the set of the trees on the right side. These different wooden highways intersect just like a roadway junction only it’s made up of fallen trees in the crosswise direction and a couple tall mounds of dirt and roots which were ripped from the ground a long time ago (perhaps during Sandy).

We switched sides at one point, but then Gus headed back over to the horizontal tree. His Super Smeller called for him to focus on the ground for a few minutes. I looked down to see what caught his attention. I expected to see the leaves moving from creatures underneath, but instead, I saw a tuft of hair.

“You might want to bag these up and take them back.” I knew that was more than a suggestion and leaned towards a direct order.

I examined the strands of hair as I put them into a baggie. They have a mostly white with some tan coloration. The ground all around was soggy from the rain which meant there were places with deep tracks going several inches into the muck. My two guesses at first were either a fox or something in the deer family left that tuft of hair. Neither would have trouble leaping over the tree trunks; in fact, in other climbing spots, I used to find fox poop right on top of the fallen trees. The tracks led to the busy main road (or maybe from it). I found more tracks on a less squishy, but still muddy part of a trail. They were clearly hooves.

a hoof print in mud

“We’ll take this sample back to the office and examine it more closely with Oliver,” I said.

Gus appeared to be overwhelmingly excited about that or maybe it was the gust of winter air that shot through. He ran over to another set of trees that give him a peek at the traffic. Then he bolted from the woods and ran up the thick evergreen that is already split vertically in a few places from previous storms. I was surprised Gus has run up that one because he generally likes thinner tree trunks. I guess it was the only option in the direction he was aimed.

Gus sniffing the ground.

With all that out of his system, he noticed the elder humans had come home from an errand and he decided to run over to them. The Cook opened the back door and Gus followed them inside. It was time for brunch before analyzing the specimen.

We sifted through tuft of hair to separate each piece of hair in order to see if there was any chance of getting DNA.

Mammalian hair is usually referred to as fur and is divided into guard hairs (lat. capilli), awn hairs (lat. setae), wool hairs (lat. pili lanei), and long hairs. Many mammals have vibrissae (tactile hair) [1]. Here, the nerve endings around the hair root (follicle) act as sensors.” —ZEISS Group Global

With light microscopy, the applications of forensic analysis have evolved. Laboratories take steps to determine if a hair was pulled out or shed naturally. They also identify whether a specimen is real hair or fake fur. The report listed in our Resources section includes images of a variety of mammals and the microscope analysis using classic methods compared to light microscopy methods. After comparisons of control samples to the specimen using microscopy, the lab can still run tests for DNA to get confirmation if needed. You would have to do the DNA testing last because it destroys the sample so there’s no going back to visual analysis.

If you feel like diving deeper into this and actually look at the ZEISS report, you’ll find that Figure 14 is an example of Deer (Cervidae) hair. Pretty cool stuff! I’m not sure what type of deer they have in Figure 14 because it’s a velvet-antlered buck with several points, but still has fawn spots. We don’t see spots on our white-tailed bucks here. Their antlers don’t grow in until their spots grow out.

This evidence tells us we were not dealing with a typical white-tailed deer found in New Jersey. What we had was evidence of a Jersey devil-deer; a juvenile who has not grown its wings yet.

Oliver and Gus were not shocked by the test results. I’m sure Gus’ Super Smeller can pick up on the subtle differences in the musk of deer versus devil-deer hybrids. He could have told me! Well, anyway, lab confirmation is always helpful.

grainy black and white trail camera image of a Jersey devil-deer with antlers and wings; January 10, 2024 10:57pm

Case Findings:

The Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency has new evidence to add to our collection. This hair specimen is that of a Jersey devil-deer hybrid. These animals do not hibernate though they generally feel safer coming out at night.

Case Status: Closed



Shacker, Dr. Ulrike, et al. (2018) Forensic animal hair analysis – zeiss vision care, ZEISS Group Global. Available at: (Accessed: 19 January 2024).


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