What Happens to Roadkill in Colorado Springs?

One of the fun things about showing properties in Colorado Springs are mule deer encounters. It’s especially fun when buyers from more “urban” environments who are startled by bucky and Bambi lounging on lawns.

 

A common problem in 80919: Deer that don't even use the grass

But there’s a bit of a problem afoot. Number one, according to the Division of Wildlife, there are too many deer in town. While there are some in-town predators (more on that later), the number one cause of death of a mule deer in the city is an encounter with an automobile. There is no definitive number for the number of mule deer in the city limits of Colorado Springs, but their sheer numbers show how likely an automobile and deer encounter is. A few years ago, the Division of Wildlife conducted a study just in 80905 and 80906, and they found more than 1000 animals ranging from Cheyenne Mountain Park to Skyway. It’s estimated that at least that many live in 80919 up against the Pike National Forest and Air Force Academy. The DOW also estimates that there are 460,000 mule deer in the state. That’s about ten people per mule deer. It probably would not be a stretch to say that there are 3000 to 4000 deer west of I-25 up the pass to Cascade from the Broadmoor to the Academy. Now add to that drought. One of the only places a deer can find water in this super-dry spring is in a gutter. One of the only places the grass is succulent is the suburbs on the lawn of someone that has kept after it all winter. The foothills may look like their appropriate range, but deer are mobile and go to where the pickings are easy and the water is available. In other words, if you live west of I-25, just about anything you plant in your yard is ice cream to a mulie.

 

Now, what I have linked here is not for everyone. You’ll note, I’m not embedding it, because the facts might be interesting, but the video… unappealing to your tastes. It depicts a deer after it has been killed by a car and is turned into… um… burger… in my friend’s garage. In this case, this deer died instantly. Other friends saw it get hit by an SUV. In a time of budget cuts and in a time of most citizenry being completely detached from their food source if it doesn’t come on styrofoam and wrapped in celophane, the sight of a dead or dying animal is a problem, because there is no money in the government budget to clean it up and no one wants to look at it. There is no abundance of CDOT or CDOW workers and trucks to pick up every animal, and remember, we let parks’ lawns burn and die and dim our streetlights around here. Correspondingly, there is no proper way governmental way to dispose of a deer carcass for most citizenry.

There are a few folks though that like the concept of “deputizing” themselves, and ridding the sidewalks and boulevards of dead deer. My friend Morgan is one. He has a state issued tag allowing him to clean up the animal. He shows how to butcher it (field-dress sounds better), and gives a deer anatomy lesson to his two children and my three (I’m the guy in the REALTOR “costume”, the striped shirt, and I hurriedly left showing a million dollar property in Black Forest for the honor of being with my kids at this educational event. Morgan’s the dude in the bloody Carhartts). Here is the video.

The DOW does not give out the number of animals roadkilled every year, but they do give out stats on the number that are “harvested” by hunters statewide. Last year it was 34,750. Considering that they sold 78,600 tags, therefore, almost 4 in 10 hunters got an animal. Yes, I say this as a way of defending the harvesting of a roadkill animal. I don’t hunt, but a lot of my friends do. Almost 35,000 deer were killed by hunters in 2010. The vast majority of those were killed by rifle. A lot of those were taken out of the woods by a truck or an ATV, not by backpack. Very few were taken by archers, my little bully-pulpit of sportsmanship’s preferred method because it seems to be the most equal playing field (a playing field I’m pretty sure the deer still doesn’t agree with).

All that is to say: this deer was already dead. My friend didn’t hit it, he was 15 minutes away when a friend saw it happened and texted him when he got to lunch at Chik-Fil-A. Instead of the animal occupying landfill, it became, well, backstrap and bratwurst. The point is, it was dead, and rather than allowing the resource to rot and go to waste, something productive was made of it.

And yes, I ate some of it. It was fantastic. No, I’m not getting a cattle-grate for the front of the Mercedes, but yes, I can now say I made gourmet roadkill. Here’s the recipe:

Venison Backstrap Peppersteak Filets

  • One Venison Backstrap sliced into two inch medallions (cleaned to remove any deer hair)
  • 3 T Butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 T mixed peppercorns (prefer pink and green to go with black)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cube beef bouillon
  • Herbs de Provence and Salt to taste

After making medallions, press in peppercorns on all sides of the meat and allow it to sit at room temperature covered. Season with salt to taste. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Heat a large cast iron skillet to medium high and melt butter. Add beef bouillon to wine and stir rapidly, set aside. Add garlic and stir frequently to keep from burning. Cook for 30 to 45 seconds until just golden. Add meat. Cook three minutes a side until just firm. Add wine and bouillon mixture and add Herbs de Provence to taste. Allow sauce to thicken and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for about one minute. Plate and serve.

One final note on Living with Wildlife: The DOW is anticipating a terrible bear season. Bears are a reality in the foothills and so are mountain lions to a degree. The foothills of Colorado Springs are packed with scrub oak and they produce an abundance of protein-rich acorns that bears love. Just with the scrub oak alone, the city’s westside is incredible bear habitat. Now add to that garbage. Bears have an uncanny memory for food sources. The DOW had to euthanize more than a half dozen bears in the metro area last year (in fact, when I asked if it was a “half dozen” the terrestrial biologist chuckled and said “oh, it was a good bit more than that”. We’ll stick with a half dozen). So if you live in the foothills, or are heading up the pass, drive a little more carefully. And if you live in the foothills and are planning your summer garden, consider what the deer will eat and won’t eat, and for crying out loud: don’t put your garbage out the night before pick-up. Bears are cool, but a garbage-eating bear is a dead-bear: once it has imprinted trash as tasty, a bear is addicted to trash as a food-source. Often this imprinting happens within one visit to a dumpster or can.

3 responses to “What Happens to Roadkill in Colorado Springs?

  1. Ginger Hipszky

    How do I contact your friend? Even though I think this deer would be not for eating. It has been out there dead in the sun for at least 4 days. The doe has been lying off the road next to the sidewalk on Centennial Blvd. between the Mormon church and the offices south of it. I can’t find any other way for someone to come and get the poor thing.
    Ginger

    • Ginger: my friend is actually out of town this week. You should call the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide. They might take it. 687-9742. Usually the first day or two is when you have to act, it gets bad after that! To do a roadkill-tag salvage, it is literally a matter of minutes. Canines and other predators that scavenge have stronger guts and are a little more tolerant . http://www.wolfeducation.org/. It’s probably too far of a drive, but Mission Wolf in Westcliffe might have someone in town for supplies today headed back southwest. Worth a back-up call. http://www.missionwolf.com/menu/visit/.

  2. Ginger Hipszky

    Thanks Benny, It has been there long enough that I think even Bear Grylls wouldn’t touch it. I will keep the fact that it needs to happen ASAP in mind. I will call DOW tomorrow. Nice to know there are places to take it, if it is fresh.
    Thanks

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