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Yesterday (April 5th) hiking I came across this scene just off a hiking trail:

enter image description here

This is a pile of what appears to be white hair (*). There were no other visible animal remnants around (unless we missed some minor detail).

As a guess, this could have been the spot where some prey was consumed? Or killed?

The location was pretty deep within a fairly dense forest in central New York State in the USA, at approx 1800 ft. elevation. It is early spring (no snow on the ground for 1-2 weeks and temps now generally above freezing at the coldest).

Can anyone identify what animal this is from, and maybe take a guess at the cirucmstances?


I did a bit of searching to see what I could find - but interestingly there don't seem to be many white-haired mammals normally present in this area (or my search was lousy). Minks have small white patches. There are oddball albino individuals, but that seems unlikely.

(*) These really didn't look like feathers to us, but I guess that is a possibility... There are white birds around such as egrets or certain ducks, but I don't think this is the correct habitat for either.


EDIT: In case it is any help I've uploaded the original full res images here:

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    These are definitely hairs - it looks like they have been cut rather than plucked - there are no follicles present on the ends, and they are clumped. I would guess that it is from a wild (escaped) goat which has been killed by a hunter. – bob1 Apr 6 at 21:19
  • @bob1 I disagree. These are without doubt are the remains of a bird’s down. Hairs are not ripped out as shown in the above shown image. – Ken Graham Apr 9 at 13:43
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    Looks like deer hair. Perhaps there was a carcass in the winter, it was dragged away, and the hair remained through the snow melt? – Anssssss Apr 9 at 18:16
  • There is something strange about the image. Look closely at the straight twig to the right of centre, which is lying on the leaf mat. Some of the hairs go under it, and some over it. Not just their ends (as some are), but completely. A bit less obvious is a curved twig just south of there where the same thing happens. There must have been quite a something to have stirred it all like that. – Weather Vane Apr 9 at 18:35
  • We hadn't disturbed the scene at all - twigs etc. were exactly as found. – UuDdLrLrSs Apr 9 at 18:47
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That is hair from a dead White-tailed Deer.

If you look around the area, you might be able to find the bones from the remains. These hairs in particular are likely from the tail. The only animal in your area that has hair of this color that is likely to be found in your area is the White-tailed Deer.

I commonly come across areas like this in the spring time.

Update:

Here is a similar photo that I took with a cool beetle.enter image description here

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  • That beetle might be a firefly genus, they have a similar scute on the mesothorax – bob1 Apr 15 at 21:50
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I have an alternate theory that the white hairs in the picture are the remnants of thistle flowers. Flowers that never quite matured in the fall and were recently found and the seeds eaten by a small mammal such as a squirrel.

I've seen fibers like the above when I harvested my artichokes a little late. From the outside they looked ready to eat but on opening the normally yummy heart had divided into zillions of white hairs. The hairs are attached to seeds. Eventually the hairs spread out, dry, and carry the seeds away on the wind. But there is a period of time where the hairs are clumped together and attached to a seed. Artichokes are in the thistle family of which there are a number of varieties in North America.

You can see several flowers in various states of maturity in the below image. I would speculate that the hairs the OP saw were from flowers like the closed one in the lower center of this image and that some animal liberated them when they took the flower apart to eat the seeds.

enter image description here

By Jakub Fryš - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77636955

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  • They don't really look like animal hairs (and definitely not feathers). Animal hairs do not grow in a bunch from a single spot: each is from an individual follicle. The animal that did this could have been small. As I commented above, the hairs/fibres have woven among the twigs, but the twigs and the leaf mat don't show much disturbance, although near top-left some hairs are almost covered by leaf. – Weather Vane Apr 10 at 19:10
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What animal was killed here?

It is a bird of some unknown species.

Identification is impossible to make on such little biological evidence.

These are without doubt are the remains of a bird’s down. Hairs are not ripped out as shown in the above image. The bird was simply killed there and carried off to be eaten elsewhere.

Out in the woods I see this type of thing very often and most often than not in the early mornings.

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  • I admit it does look a lot like bird down but why are there no feathers? It is a bit early in the season for chicks, and it is hard to image a large bird loosing that much down, without loosing feathers at the same time. – James Jenkins Apr 9 at 15:00

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