What To Do If a Deer Dies in Your Yard in Lower Merion

Roz Warren

Photo by Stefan Brechbühl on Unsplashused with permission

It started with this post on my online neighborhood bulletin board:

Hi neighbors! Sadly, a deer wandered into our yard and passed away under a tree. Does anyone have a private removal service they can recommend? Thank you.

Another neighbor quickly responded with a referral. Was the conversation over? Nope. It was just getting started. First there was a little back and forth about police work:

Call your township’s police department.

The police do not remove dead deer. That is obviously not a law enforcement function.

Then the original poster updated us:

The removal service came and took the deer away. It’s so sad. The deer’s whole family came and surrounded the corpse. Three fawns and a doe.

My neighbors were sympathetic:

Aw, that makes me feel so sad!

Animals’ hearts break too. Poor deer.

The original poster quickly updated us again:

The gentleman who removed the deer told us that he’ll deliver it to a woman who will feed it to her turkey vultures.

One neighbor approved:

That’s is a good use for the meat — much better than having it go to waste. Turkey vultures have to eat too.

Another neighbor agreed:

At least the deer will be put to some good use rather than being tossed in the landfill. Circle of Life and all that…

But a third neighbor begged to differ:

No. This is Wrong. Deer are sentient beings whose death should be respected as such.

Yet another neighbor opined:

I see deer as sentient beings too. But you can respect an animal in death while offering its body, which it does not need anymore, to another sentient animal as a way to keep that animal alive.

The dignity-after-deer-death poster pushed back:

I don’t agree with you. I’m sure the deer would not like to be eaten by turkey buzzards as a respectable way to go.

Another neighbor pointed out:

He doesn’t care. He’s already dead!

Did that shut things down? Not a chance! Another neighbor spoke up:

So what do you think is the best way to get rid of animal corpses? And does this same premise apply to all animals? Are we to not use cows as meat for dogs because the cows wouldn’t want to end up in a dogfood can? Should the carnivorous animals who depend on us perish because we believe that other animals care what should be done with their bodies after they die? As sentient as I think deer are, I highly doubt they contemplate such things.

The dignity-after-deer-death poster came back with:

How would you like to be eaten by turkey buzzards after you die?

The response?

Personally I like the idea! If I wasn’t dead, I’d tell the buzzards “bon appetite”!

Another neighbor contributed a few valid points:

There are cultures that use “sky burial” to offer their dead to raptors. That’s far more in tune with the cycle of life than filling a body with chemical preservatives and burying it in a cement-lined box — or incinerating it in a gas oven at a huge carbon-footprint cost. We are the only species that removes our remains from the life cycle. Human hubris!

The original dissenter stood firm:

You can rationalize it any way you like. It’s still wrong.

Another neighbor chimed in:

When deer die in the forest, their bodies are eaten by carrion birds and mammals. Then insects and bacteria take over. Hard to classify a natural process like that as “wrong.”

But a new commenter backed the dignity-after-death-death neighbor:

No. It is wrong. As a person who hasn’t eaten meat, bought leather, or worn leather or any other animal in the past 22 years I believe we don’t respect or take care of animals properly in our culture. No animal should be fed to another. Why don’t we feed dead humans to other humans if it so respectful?

And then? Another neighbor entered the discussion with this:

We are gradually learning all about plant sentience and plant communication. Just because you can’t hear your salad screaming doesn’t mean it isn’t in pain. At least when you eat animals, they are already dead, which is not true with your salad.

Nobody wanted to argue with Screaming Salad guy. But another neighbor sought to address the big picture:

Native American culture teaches us to respect the life of any animal that dies by giving back to the earth all that is left rather than leaving it to go to waste. To me that includes ensuring that the animal does not simply rot or be buried or cremated but instead that it is used to allow other creatures to stay alive. Dragging a corpse out to the road to be hauled off to rot doesn’t make sense to me, just as it makes no sense to me to be stuck in a box or cremated after my own death if there is the option to be returned to the earth in a shroud so that I become a part of nurturing the earth. Sorry for the ramble here, but this discussion led me to think about what matters in the big picture.

Which prompted another neighbor to observe:

Your soul leaves your body at death. The soul is all that matters. Even for animals.

After this spiritual observation, the discussion finally came full circle, when another neighbor posted this entirely practical response to the original question:

In the future, if anybody needs a dead deer removed from their property in the Township of Lower Merion? Call the Game Commission. We had one removed from our yard last month. They came pretty fast.

This is why I love neighborhood online bulletin boards. We’d quickly gone from considering the removal of a dead deer to considering the soul. With many fascinating points along the way. The circle of life! Sky burial! Screaming salad! Native American culture! And? How cows might feel about ending up in a dogfood can.

Not only that, but the original question received a useful answer that all of us can rely on if Bambi ever gives up the ghost in our front yard.

But it still doesn’t tell me what I should do about the fact that my salad is screaming.

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Roz Warren, the author of JUST ANOTHER DAY AT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY, has appeared on both the Today Show and Morning Edition, writes for everyone from the Funny Times to the New York Times, and has been included in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. Drop her a line at roSwarren@gmail.com.

Bala Cynwyd, PA

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