The deer by the road

Caution: This post is about an animal that was hit by a car and it might be upsetting to some readers. If you don’t want to read that story, enjoy this gif of a Canadian car chase and then click away!

This morning as I was biking in, I startled a deer up from the side of the road. The deer staggered to its feet, then stumbled and fell again…she’d been hit by a car and her hind legs were mangled, and she lay in blood-stained snow.

I got off my bike and lay it down slowly on the side of the road, trying not to startle her again. It was well below freezing, a cold and icy morning. I stood for a moment, gazing at her, trying to decide what to do. She gazed back at me steadily with large, sympathetic eyes. Aside from her hind legs, she was perfect and whole, and as I gazed at her lying there, it was easy to ignore the blood and forget that she was hurt.

She had a healthy, fluffy winter coat, a mobile black nose, and giant ears. And all of her attention was focused on me as she tried to figure out whether I was going to hurt her. She seemed so dignified.

Finally, I called the local police and told them about her. The officer on the other end of the line took my contact information and then said he would send someone out. “Should I stay?” I asked.

“No,” he said, “You should go.” I knew that meant they would probably kill her.

So I slowly picked up my bike and put on my helmet, gave her one last look, and rode away. The scientist part of my brain immediately thought this was a symptom of a) human overpopulation resulting in greater human impacts on ecosystems and b) deer overpopulation resulting from greater human impacts on ecosystems. Furthermore, it decided, I had never been so upset by the dead bodies of roadkill on the side of the road, a sight so common to a cyclist that I have become completely inured to it.

This was the right decision to prevent her from suffering any more.

But I also couldn’t shake the image of a police officer walking up to that defenseless deer lying in the snow and pulling out his handgun. (I don’t know if that’s what happened, but that was the image imprinted on my brain.)

I feel like I never have the appropriate emotional response to these incidents. To my animal lover friends, I am cold-hearted*, to my hunter friends I am too sensitive.

So this post is my tribute to she-who-was-a-deer, who lived her deer life doing deer things and eating deer foods. She could have died a million different deer deaths, but instead she was struck by a cyborg of metal and plastic moving faster than anything its size has a right to, and then terminated by a bullet. Hit by an animal insulated by music and heaters blasting from the cold, bleak landscape and harsh reality, who did not stop to check on the fleeting image of a deer disappearing into the cold morning. Cyborg human-machines are now the dominant apex predator in nearly every ecosystem on the planet, and they often don’t even eat their prey. They kill mindlessly because they are not connected.

So long, deer friend.

*I didn’t cry at Marley and Me (movie or book), so I might be.

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12 thoughts on “The deer by the road

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. You did the best thing. If it’s any consolation, white-tailed deer have rebounded from near decimation 100 years ago to 10’s of millions today — testament to their adaptation to urban conditions.

    I used to be a hunter and have the same ‘cold heart,’ as you describe it. Yet I caved reluctantly to rescuing three bunnies doomed to death (dumped in a field and left to die) to be brought home, and I am also a VEGAN. Much of what we do to the natural world is unnecessary, and I am convinced we are unable to change our habits, no matter how destructive they are. RIP, deer friend.

  2. Love the chase too haha. You are not cold hearted, or over sensitive, thats obvious from your post. I wish there were more like you. Thanks for stopping

  3. I have a poem about a somewhat similar incident (though not on a bike). It is difficult to “share” or, –what? ? “experience” ? –the connection with an animal while recognizing it is going to die. Like taking one’s pet for euthanasia, it feels complicated. What is the “right” thing to do? And then the sense of connectedness hangs there in the space between you and the animal. I think that is where I recognize how animal I am. (And I am not sentimental, usually; I didn’t cry at Marley & Me either).

    • I think you’ve got it exactly…there’s something hanging in the air when you have to make that decision. Maybe it’s because we have some sort of inherent responsibility…for example, the decision is in your hands to decide to euthanize a pet.

  4. It’s not fair is it… humans have such an advantage in our convenient moving machines that have taken over the landscape. She had been doing so well up till that moment the car hit her.

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