Pop Quiz: What’s the most dangerous animal in North America?
The answer, amazingly, is deer!
Every year, about 200 people are killed in vehicle collisions with deer across our continent, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. Far more deer die.
It’s an important discussion because of all the damage these collisions cause. People get seriously injured and killed. Their vehicles suffer expensive damage. And, at best, the deer limp away with fractured bones, brain damage and other permanent injuries.
I receive a call almost every day about an injured deer. Often callers are shocked we don’t pick up injured deer and nurse them back to health.
No one rehabs injured adult deer. They just can’t tolerate all the stress caused by the handling necessary to put a fractured leg in a cast. Deer are quite vulnerable to “capture myopathy” –- it’s a disease caused by an animal’s reaction to abnormal conditions, and includes infection, injury, extreme temperatures or even fear.
The sad fact is that we don’t have the staff or budget to rehabilitate any wild animals. Rehabilitation of wild animals is a voluntary service provided by fewer and fewer licensed rehabbers statewide.
Here are the general guidelines CPW officers follow when we get a call about an injured deer and the ways we can intervene.
- We will respond to humanely euthanize the deer if it is immobile and suffering.
- If the deer is still able to get up and walk around and has a lower leg injury, even a bad one, we will only observe and monitor the deer. The deer may need some time to rest and recover (that might be in your yard), but usually a lower leg break will heal on its own. We cannot rehabilitate these deer.
- If the deer starts to go downhill from an infection, we will humanely euthanize it.
With a call almost every day about injured deer, you might guess that we have to euthanize a significant number of deer. Unfortunately, that is the case and not at all a fun part of our job.
But what happens to the deer after that?
Well, if the deer looks healthy and was not hit badly in a vehicle collision, I will try to donate its meat for human consumption.
If you need or would like some wild game meat, mostly deer, but an occasional elk (and pronghorn will get hit too), then please sign up on one of the roadkill lists, posted below. I would much rather give someone some roadkill meat than have them poach an animal. Poaching is a serious crime punishable by fines approaching $11,000, seizure of firearms and vehicles and even possible jail time.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is working to reduce the amount of edible meat that is wasted from wildlife vehicle collisions. Often in these collisions, a large portion of the animal or entire animal can be salvaged for human consumption.
Here is how you sign up to receive donations of roadkill meat:
Contact CPW, Aaron Berscheid — firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-277-5231.
Please understand it would be your duty to field dress and process the animal. Whether you do that yourself or have a processor do that is up to you.
In the coming months, I’ll share more of those stories as I write about wildlife issues in our community: Got a question, problem or column idea, please email me at email@example.com or call me at 719-227-5231.
I might even answer your question in a future installment of “Wildlife Matters.”