Nov 05 2009
Don’t turn away from the awful scene. Take a moment to reflect. To think about the life that was. It’s only right.
This whitetail deer died sometime in the last week. I can’t be sure what killed her. Was it a collision with a motor vehicle? Or was she shot by a hunter and what remained of her carcass left alongside this wooded side road? It’s big game season here, and it’s also mating season for whitetails, so the deer are on the move. They sometimes run in front of oncoming motor vehicles and are struck. Sometimes they die immediately. Other times not. There are a lot of them in this part of the country, and some folks consider them a nuisance. But whatever your feelings for deer, it takes a hard heart to not be moved when you come upon a scene like this one.
It was cold. Cold enough that I couldn’t smell the carcass. My first thought was that the deer had been hit by a vehicle and that was that. Then I looked more closely. It’s hard not to see when you’re on a bike and climbing a steep hill at 6 mph.
As I looked more carefully while catching my breath after the climb, it became apparent that the deer had been butchered. Her hind quarters were missing.
What remained of her rear half—her skin and fur—had been tossed against a cut-bank 15 feet away.
Gone forever. What does it matter? It matters to me. I hope it matters to you. After all, it could be someone you care about. Or it could be you.
Death is off stage for most people most of the time. We know it happens, and know it will happen to us. It’s one thing we cannot escape. But death is held at arm’s length, something we don’t like to think about or contemplate. Never more than when we drive the roads. How many animals do we kill when we drive? How many animals have you struck? Even the most careful driver is to blame for the deaths of living beings, from insects (who cares about those?) and frogs, to birds and mammals. How many do we unwittingly kill? I don’t know the answer to that question, but when I’m riding my bike I sure do see a depressing number of dead animals on the roads, and in many ways worse, I see maimed animals like turtles who are barely alive and suffering agonizing pain trapped inside smashed shells. I do what I can for the ones I find healthy and alive—I take them to the roadside, safe, I hope. I do what I can for those I find who are injured. Most I find are dead already.
It’s terribly sad to see their corpses. And I thought it was about time that people came face-to-face with the slaughter, that people step out from the climate-controlled vehicles that cause the unnecessary deaths. I’m not ghoulish. I don’t like shooting photos of these animals who are the relatives of the ones I have come to know. But I shouldn’t be one of the few who notices them, to see the gruesome bodies—or what’s left of them—and I shouldn’t be alone in smelling them. You don’t smell them as you drive past the flesh and bones at high speeds with the windows closed tight, the music blaring, and the air conditioner in full blow. I want everyone to see, to see the horrible wreckage that’s taken on an innocent population. It may make no difference to show these photos. You certainly can’t hear the flies buzzing nor can you smell the sweet, stomach-turning rot. These animals who have died doing nothing more than go about their business deserve a memorial. They deserve to be remembered. So before I take them to the side of the road among the colorful flowers and tall grasses, I’ll memorialize them with my camera. Someone should. For the living, the survivors.