Tuesday, November 30, 2021

What of this deer?


I've been unable to shake an image from a recent walk along my favorite path in the park: a large buck trapped in the cold creek water, on a bitter cold day just before Thanksgiving, caught up somehow in broken branches, rocks, and vines, struggling unsuccessfully to get himself out. My friend and I were walking along, lost in conversation, when a young man interrupted us with a shout, "Excuse me! Please! Can you help? Look, look at this deer! Trapped in the creek!" 

There the deer was. Dying before our eyes. How he looked at us, eyes searching, filled with pain! Those eyes, staring directly at me.

I felt so helpless. Useless. Inadequate. 

I got out my phone and called for the county's animal control, and the phone just rang and rang. I called fire and rescue, explaining it was not an emergency, and shared the situation. They assured me that they would notify the proper authorities. The deer continued his struggle. Not knowing what more we could do, we walked on, hearts heavy, trying to imagine how the deer had ended up stuck like that in the creek - perhaps he'd been struck by a car on the roadway? 

We have so many deer in this area, and honestly - they have frustrated me so! This past spring and summer, it seemed as if every new bloom in my garden was eaten and destroyed by hungry deer. Yes, I have been plenty impatient, cursing their existence. But seeing this large buck trapped in this way - oh my, this was something altogether new. My heart hurt.

By the time my friend and I circled back on our walk, some 30 minutes later, there was no sign of the trapped deer - and for one brief, spectacular moment, we thought he had broken free. However, with a more studied look, we saw that it lay nearby, its now dead body mostly submerged in the creek, its round midsection and antlers protruding above the water.

We stopped for a quiet moment, and stared, taking it all in. 

Nearby, along the road, was a park police cruiser; we walked over to talk to the officer, to be sure that they knew about the dead deer in the water. The officer shared that they had come to investigate, having received a couple different phone calls, and they had found the deer with its leg broken. They shot the deer to put it out of its misery.  The officer was waiting for animal control, to dispose of the remains. 

Shooting the deer, oh my - this was both necessary and horrible. So many deer, so many humans, all of us mixed up together, sharing the world. 

I've tried to capture my mixed emotions in this poem:

what of this deer

what of this deer 

laying writhing dying 

in the cold creek water

trapped amongst branches

leg broken mangled hurt

he cant get up, get out, get going

what of this deer

leads me to compassion 

calling out soothing words of encouragement and concern

calling out for help from passersby

calling out for county assistance, proper authorities, animal rescue?

what of this deer

in my own yard

eating all the blossoms of the garden

leaving them mashed mangled bits of brokenness 

upon the surface of the soil

severing their futures

what of this deer

leads me to anger and frustration and shouting 

what of this deer?


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!


  1. Oh, that poor deer!

    Yesterday, I almost stepped on a squirrel (which we have MANY of in this area) that looked like it was freshly dead. I was horrified. Wish I had channeled my horror into writing like you did.

  2. Oh, such a sad post and yet I can certainly connect. They infuriate me when they eat all the produce I grow in a single early morning binge; yet, I cannot stand to see them lie beside the road after combat with a car....

  3. oh so hard the push pull between people and nature. It is hard to see an animal die. You writing was a good way to release these thoughts and the sorrow that come with them.

  4. Maureen, deer are abundant in my area, too. I find them incredibly beautiful although I know (as you express) that they are extremely destructive. I mourn the bodies often found along roadsides here, even as I wonder how badly they damaged the cars that struck them. Hunting them is huge around here but I have struggled with that concept all of my life (it's different if one needs the food to survive but even then, the killing...). I am haunted by your encounter with this dying deer, compounded by the sense of helplessness. It is vivid, real, and piercing - stirring anger and frustration from deep levels where they lie at the core of being a living, thinking creature. What of us humans?? Thank you for writing this and for your honesty.