Don't get me wrong, I really love nature and animals of all kinds. But some days it seems like Mother Nature has it in for us puny humans. Never mind the past few weeks of Arctic weather we've been having--now the wildlife is out to get us.
I'd meant to have another installment in my time travel series for today, but around 5 PM, The Husband called to say he'd hit and killed a deer with my--erhm, with our, Subaru. That kind of shot my discretionary time in the butt.
In West Virginia, it is legal to take roadkill you made yourself, provided you notify the Department of Natural Resources. Well, after I checked The Husband and The Car to make sure neither were damaged--much--I loaded the well-tenderized little deer into the bed of my F-150 and drove to the nearby State Police barracks. They were closed. So I took the deer home, and tried to call the DNR. Also closed. Then I rang the State Police, who advised I call the DNR in the morning.
This is important mainly because you're up against the clock with gutting and hanging a deer if you hope to get any edible meat out of it. I'm only half sure I can salvage the poor beast, because it took a direct hit with the Subaru's grille, breaking all four legs and maybe the back. The deer was a youngster, not much bigger than a hound dog, and since I don't hunt but love venison, I didn't want to pass up a chance to get some roasts out of this. I expect it will be tender.
I found a sharp knife and went to gutting it on the tailgate, which was not as simple as I'd thought. I've cut up lots of deer, but always after someone else had field-dressed it. I have a rudimentary understanding of what needs to be done, but it's a lot more complicated than Han Solo made it look when he took Luke's lightsabre to that dead Tauntaun.
I was mostly worried about getting too much of the deer's alimentary tract contents on the muscle, but I think I handled that OK. There was an awful lot of blood, which I hope I rinsed out, because The Husband is going to be taking my truck to work tomorrow so I can get the Subaru repaired. Then I rinsed out the cavity and hung the carcass up to drain. If the DNR guy comes out and tells me to go ahead, I'll finish butchering it tomorrow. Like as not I'll have to just drag it all off into the woods.
Which is where our Great Pyrenees found a deer carcass this afternoon, that had been pulled down by some unknown predator. This is way too close to my sheep farm for my liking. The dogs had gone beserk Monday evening, barking and howling, and I'd thought they had reacted to a fire siren that had gone off a few miles away; clearly now they must have heard some dogs or coyotes killing this deer. Buddha had jumped the fence and I saw him several dozen yards into the woods, with the hide and legs of what had once been a young deer. When I went after him, I could not find any obvious tracks to let me know what had killed it.
I've been throwing corn out to the deer and turkeys in the woods ever since we've been snowbound. There just isn't any way they can get enough to eat through a foot and a half of snow, so I tried to help out, and I've counted about twenty deer and a like number of wild turkeys coming to my feeding station. I hadn't even known there were turkeys in the woods until a week or two ago. And the deer have grown so used to my presence that they don't run away until I'm only a few dozen feet away from them, and then they return almost immediately.
To me, who has Snow White Syndrome, this is pretty cool, but it's actually part of a growing problem in the United States. Less than a century ago, white-tailed deer were almost extinct, and now, thanks to the activities of humans, their population has not only recovered, it's exploded. Deer are becoming nuisance animals in many states, and communities have had to institute bow hunts in town to try to cut down the populations.
The irony is that I read an article just this afternoon in Time magazine about how hunting needs to be encouraged in order to control the burgeoning populations of wild animals that have rebounded over the last several decades. Not only white-tail deer, but turkeys, beavers, hogs, bears, alligators, cougars, wolves, and coyotes have happily taken to our yards and cities, finding plenty to eat in our garbage dumps and golf courses, and luxuriating in our sense of conservational guilt which has protected them and encouraged them to breed like rats.
Success can be wonderful, but it also has a price. It's not enough to protect nature, we have an obligation to ensure it's properly managed, or things can go horribly wrong. When the animals exceed the carrying capacity of their territory, they will either starve, or become aggressive as they desperately search for food. And we will again remember why our great-grandparents ruthlessly killed these creatures a century ago--they were pests to agriculture and a danger to human lives.
My husband could have been killed, or our car wrecked, if he hadn't been alert, or if the deer had been bigger. And this isn't the first one he's hit; I've hit two myself, with the Jeep we used to own. I narrowly avoided hitting two deer in the same evening a few months ago when they just strolled out in front of my car (thank God for antilock brakes!)
What we ought to take away from this, is the resilience of nature. Animals considered to be in danger of extinction half a century ago, are now so numerous that they're creating havoc. We've done our job well, in preserving American wildlife; but our job is only half done. Now we need to be responsible stewards of the land.