Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March Deer and One-Time Photography

Yesterday, a friend alerted me to what she thought was a roadkill coyote along Wright Street here in Marquette -- a stretch of road marked 45 mph but more commonly traveled at a higher speed. Seeing as how it'd been warm for the past few days, I wasn't surprised, and Steph and I zoomed over there as soon as I got the news. We arrived in just the nick of time; a man was dragging the remains of something off the pavement and into the woods.

I asked if I could photograph the animal -- I recognized immediately that it was a deer, and not a coyote -- before he took it away, and it turned out he was removing the body from the road so that scavenging eagles wouldn't get hit by cars! How thoughtful, and respectful -- not only for the animals that will scavenge, but for the deer, as well.

I was strangely both disappointed and relieved that the victim of traffic was a deer; I'm not sure how I would have reacted if it was a coyote. I imagine the experience would have been a lot more emotional for me; I have never seen a live coyote in nature, but I have seen them dead on the road, and seeing a dead coyote so close might have been just too much.

Anyway, I photographed the remains of the body, while sinking in up to my knees in cold, gritty, dead-deer scented snow. It wasn't a very pretty sight; all the grime and grit and snow on the road had clung to the deer's fur and gave it a very dirty, old appearance. None of the legs were attached to the body; they had been severed and mangled and were in many pieces. With little to work with, I photographed only the head of the animal.

I feel very different when photographing a road-killed animal, especially one that I'll likely only see once -- as compared to an animal that I'm able to photograph over a longer period of time. I'll never get to know March Deer nearly as well as the January Does, and because of that, the few photographs I took were hardly satisfactory. There have been a few animals I've photographed only once, ones that were found in the road (October Sparrow, November Squirrel, and January Pigeon come to mind), but they were small and easily moved to someplace safe where I could take my time photographing them.

That wasn't the case for yesterday's deer; Steph had parked her car in a rather dangerous spot and had stayed with it, and I probably spent less than five minutes taking pictures. It was late in the day and the light wasn't very good, and the snow was incredibly deep, so deep that I almost got stuck on a few occasions.

In any case, I prefer to photograph an animal over an extended time frame, but in the winter, I will take what I can get. It wasn't the most comfortable photographing experience, but it was good to know that the man who moved the deer from the road was taking into consideration the safety of scavenging wildlife.


  1. You could do a new show... CSI-UP. Carcass Scene Investigator. :)

  2. I don't know... Marquette's been having enough real crime lately to have its own CSI show!