Several years ago, a friend and I were driving out to explore the Ochoco National Forest. On the way there, we spotted the body of a deer next to the road. We slowed down as we passed it to get a better look, and it was then that I noticed movement. The deer was still alive.
My friend parked his truck a short ways up the road, and I stepped out to cautiously approach the wounded animal. My hopes were not high. The little buck was breathing hard, and appeared to be in very rough shape: Two broken back legs, and possibly some manner of internal bleeding, as well.
My friend I had no choice but to put the animal down; the only issue we faced was that doing so would be a technical violation of Oregon State Law. Yes, you read that right: Doing the merciful thing and killing an injured deer would have made me a poacher.
Instead, my companion and I called a deputy out to the scene, so that he could shoot the deer for us. Rehab centers, in most cases, are not legally allowed to take in deer because they are too prevalent to begin with, and because they don’t often recuperate well enough to be released into the wild after treatment, so calling a rescue wouldn't have done much good. Death was the only option for the unfortunate little button buck, and the worst part was knowing that we had to let it rot in the ditch beside the road because Oregon also prohibits the salvage of roadkill deer and elk.
The animal likely suffered immensely after he'd been struck. We had no way of knowing just how long it had been there, helpless and in pain, before we arrived on the scene to make the call that would ultimately end him.
The harsh truth of the matter is that roadkill is not inherently more “ethical” than a deer intentionally killed by a well-placed shot from a bullet or an arrow. And yet, lots of people ask me specifically for roadkill items because they don’t want to support hunting, or view hunting as inherently as cruel.
I have a lot of bones and hides from roadkill victims, and I have no issue selling them, but it always strikes me as odd that people seem to feel better about purchasing dead things knowing that they were killed without intent, even if the trade-off is that the animal may indeed have suffered more.
Each person holds a different perspective on these matters, and my job is not to judge them for it; but I do have a unique insight on the matter which I feel compelled to share, in an effort to open further discussion on the topic, and to help people understand that roadkill does not automatically equate to a quick and painless death.