Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Four:

Case File No. 29-185

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AMBER LOVE 30-NOV-2020 Find out how all this began. Catch up on Year One, Year Two, and Year Three cases at the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency. Thank you for all your financial and social support! Oliver and Gus are looking forward to bringing you more fascinating discoveries and investigations into the chipmunk mafia, the blue jay gang, the neighborhood critters, and cryptid sightings.

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. For a one-time tip, you can go to the new PayPal.me.


Where We Left Off:

The Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency investigated the mystery of a dead rodent outside our back door.


Strange Impersonation:

It’s a challenge to remember back to October 6. That’s the main reason why I take so many photos a day. It helps bring the truth out of foggy memories. It was around 70 degrees which is quite nice here unless the humidity makes it feel like a swampy 80. Both boys were ready to set out exploring and on this particular day, they were willing to go beyond the perimeter of their estate and venture up the mountain. Oliver was with me for the first hour then I wheeled him back home hoping Gus would stay put. Shockingly, he did. However, that meant I had to climb up the hill twice.

Since Gus was untethered by a leash, he was allowed to snoop around the whole house and look in every window he could reach. Oliver was perfectly content being in his buggy which I hauled up to the veranda in order to get the best view of the landscape. It looked so pretty that day.

Oliver in stroller

The porch flooring is in desperate need of repair or overall replacement. I like the railings the way they are, but they need to be repainted. The porch also seemed like it had become a party zone. There were many different piles of poop there (dried out, thankfully) making it look like the foxes or other local critters had quite a gathering getting wasted like frat boys and pooping wherever they felt like it.

poo collage

While I examined the dried fecal matter, Gus was sniffing something else. I went to see what had his attention. It was not poop. It was a jawbone. Most of one anyway. We had not found a specimen like this ever before.

My first theory to pose to the cat detectives was that it was a baby Jersey devil-deer (image below). Although people on iNaturalist also identified it as a whitetail variety, it did not seem right even for a baby. One of those scholars holds a PhD and I still don’t think it’s a deer species.

Gus Ollie by Jeremy Fuscaldo

The teeth looked like it would be an creature who tears into meat. The shape of the teeth are rather interesting. If you look at the professional photo from boneid.net, you can see it better where the side of the jaw has peaks that point and clasp into the teeth. Human teeth aren’t like this. It reminds me of how gems are set in jewelry with prongs holding them in place. The end of the mandible is missing which would have given us more clarification if there was a larger fang before the more cohesive row of teeth.

mandible bones skeleton jersey devil-deer
Jersey Devil-Deer Mandible

 

Second theory after comparing the bone to photos of local wildlife was a raccoon. The trash panda bandits of the world are all over, but rarely seen. I haven’t seen Little King Meth House in a couple years, but he worked and lived out of the condemned building on the other side of the town, not up the mountain. There would certainly be other raccoons in the area who keep to themselves.

raccoon aka trash panda

Third theory is that the bone belonged to an opossum (a word I nearly always misspell – how is there only one “p” in that?). Like their raccoon neighbors, these are rarely seen. The last time I did see one in person, it was a cute little baby in the middle of the trail either actually dead or playing dead.

bone comparison

Comparing the Opossum vs. Raccoon (which I also spell with “cc” and “oo” unlike boneid), they are nearly impossible to distinguish from each other. Both have the large lower fang at the end, then space, then the row of teeth. The only difference I can easily see is that the opossum has six teeth in that row versus the five of the raccoon.

I had never heard of sheepsquatch before today. My understanding based on perusing search results is that it has something to do with Fallout*, an interactive documentary about radiation and nuclear weapons that gives people the feeling of playing a game like those choose-your-own-adventure books. I don’t know why the sheepsquatch kept appearing in my search results for opossums, but that’s the internet for you. So that’s another theory based on searching that we can rule out. Also doing a reverse Google Image Search was completely useless. It came back with results for ruler since it was in the photo, any kind of bone not remotely shaped like this, and wood because of the flooring.

Case Findings:

For now, we are identifying this specimen as that of Virginia Opossum unless we find evidence suggesting something else.

Case Status: Closed

(*guys, I know what Fallout is.)

Amber and Gus

 

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