In college, my friend Ryan who had a mild crush on me gave me a mouse skeleton. He assembled it out of an owl pellet. An owl pellet is basically what the owl throws up (which is a lot, apparently, because FYI, owls don't chew.) It's all the undigested bits of prey--the bones, the fur--mixed in with whatever else the owl's stomach doesn't want. (Think "owl hairball.") You pick through the pellet for all the juicy bits (or, rather, non-juicy bits). In case you missed it, Ryan was a science nerd. And weird. We are still good friends to this day and when I reminded him of that mouse skeleton some time ago he said, "I could probably make a more accurate one now. That was before I took upper division Vertebrate Morphology and none of the vertebrae were in the right place on that one," or something to that effect. Anyway, I built a little glass case for the mouse, and it sat on my desk for a long time.
Now, you can buy your own owl pellet
from none other than that bastion of mass market hipster fashion, Urban Outfitters. Several thoughts come to mind. (1) How do they get a large enough supply of owl pellets? Do they employ a squadron of bulimic owls to throw up on schedule? Or (2) Do they employ a squadron of naturalists who scour the forest floors for owl puke? Ryan found his around his house, I think. Or camping. I'm not certain. I'm not entirely sure I want to know how he found it. Plus, because it's Nature and Nature is fickle, unlike Commerce, which thrives on certainty, (3) it's sort of hit or miss with these pellets. Maybe it was a bad hunting day. Maybe the owl didn't get much to eat. Does that justify the $8 purchase price? And come to think of it, is $8 a fair price for the contents of an owl's stomach? Owls probably spend way less than that per meal. (4) Or maybe Urban Outfitters works with a supplier who houses the owls in a factory and feeds them a mouse each time, thus guaranteeing one mouse/vole/squirrel what have you, per pellet.
And (5) Urban Outfitters? Really?
UO's packaging is stamped with the tagline "Puke has never been so interesting." That's just wrong. Puke has always been interesting. The packaging also says "Made in the USA." So these are American owls, then.
Super! Because I would not rest easy knowing the owls had not been properly compensated, or had been taken advantage of in unregulated foreign markets.
Anyway, it seems you can buy owl pellets--bigger, scarier owl pellets, from meaner, more rapacious owls--from quite a number of places. And check out that markup! Eight dollars compared to 0.99 cents! You can buy a pellet from a Midwestern Barn Owl
, "best bargain with 2 to 3 prey" even, for $2.99.