The Case of the Headless Mouse

It was as cold as a Titmouse on a bare oak branch that morning. The call came in from the Mammal Division. I’d fallen asleep in my suit, Kirkegaard propped against my noise. My tongue felt like it had been ground up for dog-food and probably smelled like that, too, but I shook off my hangover with three fingers of the good stuff and shelved my existential brooding. By the time I’d got to Central I was showered, shaved, and wearing an unstained clip-on tie. I felt like a freshly re-charged cell phone battery and I didn’t care who knew it.

The scene wasn’t pretty. Some joker had decapitate a White-footed mouse, Peromyscus leucopus to the lab boys, and left it lying under a pine.Peromyscus leucopusThe dame who’d found the stiffening rodent was being calmed down by the social workers who pass as beat cops. She was as glazed over as a frosted cupcake. Her toy dog, dressed as expensively, was yipping in excitement. You and me too, kid.

“Poor bastard never knew what hit him,” said the Inspector, approaching to shake my hand and press a couple of flyers about the fall fundraiser into my palm.

“You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?” I asked.

“That’s why I called you.” She took a sip of her steaming soy latte. “We need a bird brain on the case.”

I tried some of her latte without asking about it. “Whew! Who cooks for you?”

“Lactose is for cows,” she said. “Cut the banter and give me your professional opinion.”

“Open and shut,” I said. “When in doubt, look up.”

So we did, into the pines above. A good place to hide for this kind of perp, who do their best work in night.

Half a dozen pairs of eyes looking up there, into more than half a dozen trees. But trust someone in the Ornithology Division to distinguish the cones from the Strigiformes. They don’t call me Falconeye Wills for nothing.Strix varia“There he is,” I said. Straight up from the corpse. Barred owl. Strix varia to us nerds. And probably well-fed, taking only the protein-rich brain and leaving the rest for the scavengers.

See also all the jaw bones in owl pellets.

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14 Responses to “The Case of the Headless Mouse”


  1. 1 Roger Latour December 27, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Case settled, reader so satisfied, thanks!

  2. 3 Elizabeth December 27, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Since I assume the perp, though IDed, was not apprehended, what was the location of the crime? I’d like to avoid walking my white-footed mouse there.

    • 4 mthew December 27, 2012 at 10:55 am

      No, the Barred Owls, at least three of which have seen over the last month or so in Central Park, have not been apprehended. They get a get-out-of-jail free card, a happy hunting pass, in this town. This has been a very Barred Owl year, with many sightings around the region.

  3. 5 Stephanie B. (@B4Steph) December 27, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Nice work! I’m like a little kid preferring to learn by way of a good story. I love it. And owls are all the rage right now.

  4. 6 Traci December 27, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    “We need a bird brain on the case.” Brilliant! Was this written by Phillip Marbled (Godwit)?

  5. 8 Paul December 28, 2012 at 7:31 am

    Well, that explains a couple of similar finds my Ozark forest. Organized hits in the Midwest?

  6. 12 Out Walking the Dog December 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Great story, Matthew. Case solved, call off the Pinkertons. I found a decapitated sparrow fledgling on my block once. No owls in the vicinity, but plenty of NYC’s Three Rs (Rats, Redtails and Raccoons). I think quite a few predators, both avian and mammalian, must enjoy chomping on some brains when they’re otherwise sated.

  7. 14 Gillian December 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Next time I find a headless mammal, I will know where to look for the perpetrator!


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