Good Use for a Road-kill Deer

Guest Posting by Dean Hansen.
Dean has contributed to Old Naturalist over the years.

I noticed a road-killed deer near my land just east into Wisconsin from my home in Stillwater.  I registered the deer online and dragged it onto my five-acre lot.  A simple Moultrie “trail cam” was strapped to a tree a dozen feet from the carcass.  It didn’t take long for hungry animals to find the carcass.

Crows on the carcass
December 29, 2019

17 March, 2020: First Spring visitor was a mature Bald Eagle.


17 March: After surveying the scene, he started to open up the chest cavity to get at the lungs and heart.


18 March: A Red Tailed Hawk joins the dining club.


21 March: The Red Tailed Hawk continued feeding in the chest cavity.


22 March: The surprise of this whole experiment was the appearance of a Red Shouldered Hawk on the carcass. This is a Threatened Species in Wisconsin. A WDNR worker told me that it was quite unusual to see this species at carrion.

29 March: The Bald Eagle returns and enlarges the hole to the chest organs.

3 April: A late spring snowfall doesn’t keep the Bald Eagle from returning. That’s a really large bird, I’d say.

7 April: Vultures appear. Again, the chest cavity is the preferred dining site.

April 8:   A curious deer


29 April: Vultures continue feeding through the month. Note the grass greening.

May 10: Finally–a coyote appears. I was hoping for a bear, but that was a no-show.

May 11 The coyotes worked on the hind quarters (the “thighs” of the deer), and they even dragged the carcass noticeably to the upper right of the frame.


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4 Responses to Good Use for a Road-kill Deer

  1. Dean C Hansen says:

    Thank you Holly, Angie, and Vicki for the kind words. “Trail cams” can be used in interesting ways, well beyond just scouting for the “big buck” on a deer trail. I have one two-picture sequence of a black bear: the first is of the bear’s face a couple feet in front of the camera, then the second is just a full frame of blurry pink, with out-of-focus white blotches. It took me a minute to figure out that the camera captured the inside of the bear’s mouth as it bit the camera. Capturing deer activity at “scrapes” can be very interesting–put “deer scrape pictures” into Google and see what you get. Sometime in the future I want to try attracting and photographing predators with a prepared scent sold for trapping. I’ll trap with the camera, though.

  2. Holly Einess says:

    Road kill always makes me sad; glad to know some good came of this one! And great idea on Dean’s part to pull the carcass off the road, and then to mount a trail cam! Very cool to see the variety of creatures who fed on the deer.

  3. Angie Adamec says:

    This is a great use for roadkill that keeps the scavengers safely out of harms way. A wonderful educational tool to show how life gets passed on in the natural world, sustaining the next generation of life. Good thinking to photo the results, Dean, on Larrys great website !

  4. Vicki Donatell says:

    Hi, Larry,
    Nice job of capturing the various guests as they feast. Hard to see a dead deer, but knowing it provides sustenance for other creatures is wonderful.

    Deer ate lunch at my front door today. They’re about the only company I can serve these days. LOL
    Thanks for sharing.

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