By Brendan Troy
CAUTION – Some photos in this article are very graphic, portraying the disgusting and illegal actions of poachers. Viewer discretion is advised.
Being a wildlife photographer, I’m outside a LOT. I also drive incredible distances more often than most sane people should. Whether I’m strolling in my neighbourhood, driving through the prairies or hiking in the mountains, death is a common observation. Whether it be a partially eaten duck along a winter water way, or a massive, meaty Mule Deer skeleton, evidence of death is everywhere. This is no surprise, but what I found on December 1st was something I thought I would never see, nor did I ever want to.
On a beautiful winter afternoon, I was out to find my favourite cold weather subjects. While driving north-east of Calgary I found a total of 7 Snowy owls and was having a fantastic outing. 2 owls were almost pure white, portraying old age and a smart, distinguished owl. A fox laying in the middle of a famers field was startled by my car and took off towards the silhouette of our mighty mountains. The sun was shining and everything was going well.
Driving east of Balzac I came upon a juvenile Bald Eagle along a fence line, quite a far distance from the road. I stopped my car, hopped out and got my camera ready as I wanted a closer shot. Unfortunately, I must have spooked the eagle and he took off across the flat landscape. I jumped back in my car and continued down the road when a large number of crows and magpies came in to view. A small section of fence line was full of corvids, probably over 30. I got closer and the birds moved down the road and away from the ditch. In the ditch was the reason for the eagle and all the crows. Scattered in the melting snow, like unwanted waste, were the remains of at least 5 deer. It took a moment to really clue in to what this was, but once it hit me I didn’t really know what to do. This was a poachers dumpsite.
I have definitely heard of others stumbling open a poached animal. The sadness can be overwhelming and for some, can morph into extreme anger. To see a beautiful animal slaughtered and left to rot in a road side ditch is not what anyone thinks of when referring to a nice country drive, which I thought I was having. The deer were compressed into thawing balls of meat. After being stuffed and jammed into black garbage bags, the poacher felt it was best to toss the remains not even 4 feet from the side of the road, allowing others to find their ‘trophies.’ I got out of the car and approached the pile of carrion. Immediately I noticed two bucks with a distinct ‘V’ sawed into the top of their skulls. This was upsetting, but laying next to these carved up deer was a fully intact young buck. The deer would have been a 2 to 4 point buck, incredibly young, and killed a generation too soon. With these three bucks were 2 females. I say there were only 5 as I could only count 5 deer heads. There were parts of deer lying everywhere and there very well may have been more than 5 killed by this poacher. More....