The woods and landscaped shrubberies of the DC area, from the GW Parkway through the I-270 corridor between Potomac and Rockville, MD, are infested with deer. They are pretty, dainty-stepping creatures when eating apples in the garden (we watched one doe devour several behind the house where we're working, piggily ignoring us watching her from just twenty feet away), and a royal bloody mess on the roadways when they encounter the equally numerous automobiles. Not a day goes by that I don't see one glassy-eyed brown-furred corpse on the side of a road, its neck or feet contorted at an unnatural angle. At least the cold weather means that the bodies don't bloat as fast as they do when it's warmer--then, you see the trunk ballooning with decomposition while the thin legs poke out like sticks a child has thrust into a dirty snowman.
A couple of weeks ago, I passed a middle-aged man getting out of his small pickup, pulling on gloves, and walking towards the body of a deer by the side of the road. He already had two in the back of his truck, and I wondered how many he would accumulate over the next few miles, and what he intended to do with them. It seems to me that provided the animal hasn't been dragged by the car that hit it, the meat would remain edible, and that even its coat might be salvageable for leather. Are the carcasses butchered and the meat donated? Or are the bodies just chucked into a landfill? It seems kind of a waste to throw them away without salvaging something; especially given the volume of dead animals hereabouts, you'd think there'd be a dedicated abattoir somewhere close by. If so, where would it be? Was the pickup man a county employee, a peculiar volunteer, or had he bid on a contract? Is there some sort of formal reporting system for roadside deer death, enabling him to find the expired creatures easily, or does he have to cruise around each day, looking and sniffing for likely spots? What happens if someone runs into a stag with a particularly nice rack...do they get to keep it?