What happens if a deer gets hit by a car but doesn't die?
November 29, 2013 5:19 AM   Subscribe

If you hit a deer with your car, and it doesn't die, what happens to the deer? Does someone come and "put it out of it's misery"? Take it to the deer hospital?

I've always thought the police will come and shoot it, but my husband thinks it's a big deal when an officer discharges a weapon. Does anyone know for certain? Does it vary by state (we are in the U.S., in CT).
posted by smalls to Grab Bag (25 answers total)
I've seen the state patrol shoot one by the side of the road before (in NC)
posted by thelonius at 5:26 AM on November 29, 2013

We hit a deer in Minnesota last year and the officer who came to the scene did indeed put the deer out of her misery. The deer was on a major highway and they shot the deer before dragging it to the side of the road. No idea if the same would have happened if traffic wasn't blocked.
posted by advicepig at 5:28 AM on November 29, 2013

We came upon a car that had hit a deer and pulled over to assist. The deer was there and injured but still alive. When the police officer got there, he did usher us away and shoot it. This was in a suburban area.
posted by PussKillian at 5:30 AM on November 29, 2013

If it's blocking traffic, someone will likely show up to take care of it. Even money whether it's the police, someone from the DOT/local public works department, or animal control. Police are more likely if there's been an accident with cars still on the scene.

If it's not blocking traffic and no one has put in a call, it'll expire on its own or drag itself away.

In either case, if there's a deer carcass on a public road (or in its right-of-way) municipalities have guys, either employees or contractors, whose job it is to haul them off.
posted by valkyryn at 5:31 AM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had a deer run out and hit its head against the side of my car about 10 years ago in upstate NY. The police officer who responded (I think he was a state trooper, but I'm not certain) moved the injured deer out of the road and then shot it.
posted by Jahaza at 5:34 AM on November 29, 2013

This very recently happened in Canada. The deer had been hit and was severly injured, it couldn't move its back legs. There's basically no fixing that. The officer shot it to put it out of its misery. People lost their shit over it. Apparently they would rather have the deer get eaten alive by coyotes or starve to death...? I almost think they wouldn't have cared if it hadn't been a fawn (and therefore cuter). Maybe the cop should have done it out of sight of the people...

Anyway, in Canada they do put it out of its misery apparently.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:40 AM on November 29, 2013

Oh yes, the troopers here in Texas will shoot them. And at least some of them keep them and have them butchered, though I don't know if that was legal or that particular cop just didn't care.
posted by emjaybee at 5:57 AM on November 29, 2013

In Vermont they get shot, and if you happen to go by while they are doing the shooting and ask nicely they will let you take it home to butcher and eat. For some reason I think they wouldn't let the person who hit the deer take it home, but they would let us take it home. Possibly also because we knew the officer and he knew that if we took it home he would get some nice smoked and cured venison out of the deer as well.
posted by koolkat at 6:07 AM on November 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

PA General Hunting Regulations:

"Roadkilled Deer/Possessing Wildlife: It is unlawful at any time to possess live wildlife, except foxes for which a permit has been issued, or animals, or parts of animals, killed on highways. Pennsylvania residents may possess deer or turkeys killed by a motor vehicle for personal consumption only if they secure a permit number from the Game Commission within 24 hours after taking the deer; call the appropriate region office. It is not legal to kill “put it out of its misery” any injured wildlife; again, call the region office."
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:10 AM on November 29, 2013

In Austin I have experienced that the police slit the throat. They can't shoot it within city limits.
posted by magnetsphere at 6:22 AM on November 29, 2013

I'm in CT also and it seems to me that when wild animals have to be shot, it's usually DEEP that actually does it (Hartford bear incident) but if the animal seems dangerous and the police are there, they'll do it (Berlin bear incident.) I think if the injured deer was wandering around the highway after I hit it, I'd call 911 and let the dispatcher send whoever they saw fit, but if the deer was in the woods and just lying there hurt, I'd call DEEP the same way they tell you to do if you find any injured animal.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:26 AM on November 29, 2013

Had this happen in CT once and the police officer shot the poor deer.
posted by slateyness at 6:31 AM on November 29, 2013

In Maine, if a person with a gun arrived before police, they'd likely put it down. I've never heard of anyone getting cited for violating hunting regulations in a case like this. If possible, somebody will take the deer for meat, we're thrifty up here. There's no deer hospital, deer are game animals and in many areas are overpopulated. Deer are lovely and graceful, so some people will provide them with food, but that tends to make them too accustomed to humans, and they become pests, roadkill, a bagged-n-tagged deer. They also carry deer ticks, which often carry Lyme disease. The life and hunting death a of deer in Maine is probably better that many cattle raised for meat.

Very early one morning in Portland, we heard gunshots. A tourist from New Jersey hit a moose on a major street in Portland, injuring it. Police tracked it to a nearby garage, waited till daylight, and put it down. Poor thing had a muzzle full of porcupine quills. The policeman said they'd find someone to take the meat; plenty of police are hunters so I'm sure there was a moose cookout. I would so love to hear the tourist's side of the story.
posted by theora55 at 6:32 AM on November 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

In Michigan, I've heard of either the driver, a passenger or a passer-by but a deer out of its misery with a bullet, especially during hunting season. State troopers or a police officer will do the same.
posted by mibo at 6:35 AM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I lived in Jasper National Park (Canada) for a few years and a couple of my friends hit deer and elk. From the firsthand narratives I heard, it seemed to be standard procedure for the wardens or RCMP to move a critically wounded animal off the road and shoot it. Firearms possession and usage are extremely restricted in the parks but according to the National Parks Wildlife Regulations:

15. (1) A superintendent may authorize

(a) the removal, relocation or destruction of wildlife for scientific purposes or park management purposes;

Never heard anybody make any kind of fuss about this. It's pretty common for cars to hit these kinds of animals there since they are all over the place.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:36 AM on November 29, 2013

Growing up in suburban NJ, I did indeed see the police attend to an injured deer right outside my house after an accident and heard them shoot it a few minutes later.
posted by deanc at 6:39 AM on November 29, 2013

I hit one with my motorcycle, it was injured but not dead (same for me). The NY State Park Police shot it and someone in the crowd claimed it. I didn't see what happened, due to being strapped into a backboard but since it was July and well outside of deer hunting season there would have had to have been some paperwork for that person to fill out in order to take it out of the park.
posted by tommasz at 6:42 AM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ow, tommasz, as a (former) motorcyclist I feel your pain. The day after I had the accident that stopped me from riding motorcycles they were talking in the hospital about how I was luckier than the motorcycle officer who had hit a deer and then been hit by a car after he went off the bike. Ugh.

It is in fact a Big Deal when an officer discharges a firearm, and there probably is a little paperwork to it, but it is justified both for humane reasons and because a wounded animal that's still conscious and could possibly get up is a danger to traffic and bystanders. I would think a civilian with a firearm would be given the same latitude, but I wouldn't do it myself if there were witnesses, unless I was given the go-ahead by an authority.

Using a knife seems to make more sense and I would expect is done if the animal appears to be lethargic or unconscious, but I wouldn't want to get that close to a deer that might get up.

I have a friend who was a state police officer and he took in road kill (where he knew that the deer was freshly killed) to be processed, or would let the person whose car or truck was struck have it. It's some pretty expensive meat if it's your vehicle, but it's good eating.

This once led to an interesting misunderstanding with a supervisor when they showed up to inspect his unit (he lived in a rural area and didn't go to the post every day) before he could clean the blood out of his trunk.

Living in the south where deer are all over the place, I can assure you there are no deer hospitals, although the processors do something kind of like surgery on them... :-)
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:32 AM on November 29, 2013

Assuming you're also interested in what happens outside of the US (you didn't state a location):
Here in the Netherlands, yes, someone will come and put the deer out of its misery. Usually not the police but someone from Staatsbosbeheer or a local game warden. This is how I know. Not sure what happened to the deer in this case; since it died after (a very long) 15 minutes or so, it may have been given to the zoo because of too much adrenalin in the meat. Lions don't care.

In the area where I live there are currently more deer than is considered good, so there is no reason to try and keep an injured animal alive.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:54 AM on November 29, 2013

The question seems to have been pretty thoroughly answered (it will be shot if it's hurt too badly to run away, or else it will run off and whatever happens happens) but I thought I'd address the side question of why police will generally not allow the person who hit the deer to take the meat, but may allow someone else to do so (or take it themselves).

Many states have laws about this. Basically, they want to discourage people from going out and hunting deer by running them over with their cars accidentally-on-purpose. That's an idiotic thing to do for lots of reasons, but there are always a fair number of idiotic people around so states make it illegal to take the carcasses of any deer that you might hit, accidentally or otherwise. However it seems a shame to waste a hundred pounds of perfectly good accidental venison, so it's still legal for the next person who happens on the carcass to scoop it up and take it away for butchering.
posted by Scientist at 9:11 AM on November 29, 2013

Around here (small town Canada, many, many deer), the police will certainly shoot a deer that is critically injured if they are on the scene. They will not make a trip out to wherever you might happen to hit a deer to do this and neither will the conservation officer. Eventually, the company with a contract to maintain the highway will remove the carcass, but that could take days.

It would not be uncommon for people with the means to take care of this themselves. I even know people who have done so with a large rock.
posted by ssg at 9:48 AM on November 29, 2013

the previous commenters have thoroughly addressed your question - i just want to add one thing. be careful about putting a freshly killed deer in your passenger compartment to take home for venison, unless you are 100% sure it is dead. some dead deer have a nasty way of unexpectedly coming back to life, when you're on the freeway, and flailing their sharp hooves around (like at the back of your head).
posted by bruce at 10:15 AM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Canadian here -- same answer as everyone else; usually put out of its misery, often by the closest police officer or local with a hunting rifle. My hunting-type friends say that even if a deer is able to run away from an accident, many times they'll wind up wolf food later anyways. Few deer survive heavy impacts with vehicles.

And, I don't want to know how bruce knows about zombie deer coming back to life in vehicles.
posted by liquado at 11:41 AM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of the reasons that I carry a knife is to be able to put down an injured animal in the road. I'd like to keep a rifle in my truck for the same reason, but I don't feel like it's safe to have a rifle in the truck (for reasons of theft, primarily). It's my experience that civilians deal with this problem far more often than law enforcement officers do.
posted by waldo at 1:03 PM on November 29, 2013

We had a deer run into the side of our car, as we were slowing down. We called the Sheriff's office and they put him down with a single shot.

A hunter came along and took the deer home.
posted by SuzySmith at 9:53 PM on November 29, 2013

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