I remember the May when I found the clean, dry, elegantly curved skull of a small deer in the woods.
It had been a hard winter for deer. The snow came early and piled deep. No thaw in January, February, March; even April was grim and gray. The smaller critters were safe and warm under the snow, but it was near impossible for deer to move. It made them easy prey for coyotes and for dogs whose owners allow them to run loose in the winter.
Wildlife experts know that hard winters kill more deer. It’s natural. It’s expected. It goes into the state’s calculation of how many deer should be harvested this fall to best maintain the health of the herd. Authorities estimate that there will be about 15 percent fewer deer, so they will plan the hunting season accordingly.
I put the skull in a plastic bag and set it aside to give to my grandson, Sam, who is curious about nature and not squeamish about bones. To him, it will be a mystery to investigate and perhaps a step down the long path that leads to becoming a scientist. To me, it is a memento mori, a Latin phrase that means “remember you must die.”