Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Mystery of the Chewed Log, Part 1

"Umm... what in the world... happened?"

A few days ago, I walked out with my dogs to the far side of the yard.  I typically drop their leashes and stay at the edge of the fenced in area once I get to the top of the short path up the hill, allowing them to do their business in peace.

Every few days, though, I continue up the hill to check on my compost heap, or to see if I'm lucky enough to catch sight of anything fascinating.

And, yeah.  That time I definitely saw something fascinating...

large log chewed from end to end.  Originally about four feet long and 8 inches thick.  Thickness is now reduced by half.

That's a log.

Ok, there's nothing particularly fascinating about a log.

This log, however, looked very different from just a few days ago.  See, a few days ago, it was whole.  It was unblemished.  This log was an absolutely perfect example green yard decor.  It had character.  But...

Close-up of the chewed log showing large wood chips along the sides.

It now has a lot more character.  It was chewed so throughly as to seem as though it had an unfortunate accident involving a chainsaw and alcohol.  A lot of alcohol. And a rusty chainsaw.

"Interesting..." I thought.  "I wonder what did that?"

I was a little saddened by the destruction of this log, which I had actually used as a low-to-the-ground seat, but I also found this change to be, well, a fascinating mystery.

I wondered what animal had wandered in and done such a large amount of damage in such a short amount of time.  I knew it wasn't termites.  There was clear evidence of massive chewing, rather than a bug-fest.  Wood chips - large ones - were scattered everywhere!

I heard some frantic scurrying from within the area a few nights prior to that, at some time around midnight. The following day, at dusk, one of my dogs scared a rabbit in that area of the yard, and it raced full speed into the neighbor's yard.

These were two entirely separate events, and could be unrelated, but they were definitely clues.

Excited that I had a new mystery to solve, I turned to walk away from the log.

And saw a wooden plank with the same damage.

a long... chasm... chewed into the end of the plank, almost clear through.

I looked up from it, and saw my dogs watching me, clearly inquisitive, from the gate of the fence.  They were ready to go back inside, and found it curious that I wasn't already there, picking up their leashes to lead them back inside.

"I'll come back and check it out later."  I thought, as I walked over to the dogs so that they could go back inside.  Walking down the path on the hill, though, I discovered this.

another chewed log.
A second chewed log.

Then, as we passed the fire pit, I saw this.

tree stump slightly chewed along the edge.  The damage is circled in red, with red arrows pointing the area out.
The trunk that my fairy ring had grown around!!!

The situation quickly turned from fascinating to astounding.  What started out as one simple, heavily chewed log turned into an entire yard full of wood that had been chewed away. Not all of the wood, though.  It was only the largest, thickest pieces.

Logs, a plank, a tree stump.  Nothing any less than 4 inches thick.

Clearly, this was just too much damage to blame a single rabbit for.  I mean, I know I can be a bit wacky at times, but this isn't Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or anything.  One small rabbit can't chew that much wood...

There had to be a logical explanation. 

Did I have an entire warren in the back yard???  Is it some animal that I've had yet to spot?

Does the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog really exist?

It was getting late, and the sun was soon going to set, so I vowed to investigate in the morning.  After that, I'd head off to River Bend Nature Center and ask one of their naturalists.

What do you think chewed up the logs in the backyard?  Stay tuned for Part 2, tomorrow, and find out!

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