I learn something new every day.

I’m not saying I’m the guilty party, because I’m not, but I had no idea, none at all, that it is against the law to cut the head off of an already dead deer.

A reward of $2,500 has been offered for the arrest and conviction of whoever decapitated five deer last month on Interstate 79 near Coraopolis.

The five deer carcasses were found in late October along the highway between Coraopolis and Neville Island. Investigators with the state Game Commission suspect the animals had been struck and killed in traffic, and someone came along and mutilated them.


1. More a question. WHY is it against the law to cut the head off of an already dead deer? I’m seriously asking. Before you get your PETA panties in a bunch (What does that mean?), I’m not saying I’m FOR the cutting off of heads of dead deer, I’m just wondering why it is illegal to cut the head off of a dead deer you find on the roadside. Educate me.

2. This:

Illegally harming or possessing a dead deer also is poaching

How can you harm something that is already dead?

Do NOT comment, “Well how would you feel if someone harmed the corpse of your relative or dog?”

Deer are not people and deer are not pets. They are wild animals that are hunted and whose meat some eat and whose heads some hang on their walls.

3. I hate the sad looks my kid gives to the deer head hanging above the fireplace mantle in Cracker Barrel.

4. It’s a good thing I only chop the heads off of live pigeons.

5. I’m gonna sit here and wait for PETA to start emailing me again.


  1. Butcher's Dog
    November 9, 2010 8:57 am

    I think road-kills are examined for signs of wasting disease, something that can decimate deer herds. That’s probably the best scientific reason. Also, road kill spoils pretty quickly, so anyone who took one with the purpose of home meat packing could be pretty sick pretty soon (spare the “they’re already sick” comments, please). Finally, stopping to grab a trophy puts you in harm’s way of other motorists. Also puts the other motorists in harm’s way as well.

    And remember: in my town people sport bumper stickers that read “PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals”.

  2. SpudMom
    November 9, 2010 9:03 am

    But then it should be illegal to stop for roadkill, not to mutilate a deer corpse (which I assume means in the woods or on the road).

    Is it some kind of corollary to the poaching laws? I would assume that someone taking the head of a dead deer in this fashion may not have had a license to hunt and kill said deer. No license = poaching.

    Still, do they prosecute those people that process legally obtained deer? I mean, my Dad hunts (and fed our family when we were little that way) and if he happened to get a deer with a nice rack, he’d ask for the rack. Is this considered mutilation under the law? What about hunters that want the whole head for mounting? Is that mutilation if the deer is legally obtained?

    It just seems like a poorly defined law.

  3. PG Wodehouse
    November 9, 2010 9:03 am

    And cutting off the heads of deer is just plain icky.

  4. PG Wodehouse
    November 9, 2010 9:04 am

    Do PETA’s wear panties? Not the ones I’ve ever seen.

  5. Heather
    November 9, 2010 9:05 am

    We’re weirdly animal crazy these days. Like Michael Vick , who did jail time over fighting DOGS, when people like oh, say…Ray Lewis are walking around, free to play. ;-)

    Of course what he did to the dogs is disgusting, but they are animals, which – I can’t even say I’m sorry to those who will disagree, because I’m not sorry at all, I think you’re nuts – dogs are not as important as people! People!

    That said, I’m sure there’s some logical explanation for why you can’t decapitate an already dead deer, like then people will intentionally try to run down deer so that they can chop their heads off and have the antlers mounted. Because that could be a real epidemic.

  6. Cassie
    November 9, 2010 9:18 am

    I know people sell the deer heads to people who are unable to kill their own to mount on their walls. My old neighbor bought his and said he shot it himself. Too bad the tag was left on.

  7. Butcher's Dog
    November 9, 2010 9:27 am

    We have a mounted head and several other racks, all from legally taken deer. The processing plant even asks if we want the rack/head when we take one in. Law must apply only to poached and road kills.

    While in South Carolina several years ago we saw a guy stop and pick up a road-killed fox. It had to be pretty fresh because it was still limp. The scenario of run-em-down-and-pick-em-up isn’t as far-fetched as you might think.

  8. Butcher's Dog
    November 9, 2010 9:28 am

    BTW, that’s seven hyphens in that last sentence. Beat that, Internet!

  9. red pen mama
    November 9, 2010 9:31 am

    I was just wondering about the high number of dead deer in general in that 79 corridor — which I drive nearly every day. I’m surprised some of those carcasses had intact heads to cut off, frankly. I mean, they’ve been messy kills. Not to get all graphic.

    Animal mutilation, on dead or alive animals, is disturbing. And, yes, the fines and illegality of it probably has to do with hunting licenses. But if they find the weirdo (weirdos?) doing this, they may want to have a little chat with him (her?) and maybe check out his basement.

  10. DaleyT
    November 9, 2010 9:59 am

    As far as I know, it does have to do with licensing. If you hit a deer and want to take it for the meat, you need to get a license to do it. (Also, second hand, you really don’t want meat from a roadkill, even if it is fresh. The meat is damaged (like a big bruise, effectively) and is not good to eat.

    It is also possible that these deer may not show signs of being hit by a vehicle, so they may have been brought from somewhere else and dumped there to make them look like roadkill.

    Finally, I also read somewhere that since deer tend to move east/west when foraging, that is why you see more road kill on roads like 79 vs. the turnpike.

    Unfortunately, I do not have any links to back any of this up, so take it for what it is worth.

  11. BeauJacques
    November 9, 2010 10:01 am

    New Hampshire auctions off it’s roadkill!

    Listening soon-to-be-ex Gov. Spendell??

  12. bucdaddy
    November 9, 2010 10:02 am

    Down here in West by-God, it’s legal to take your road kill home (as it should be everywhere, might as well get SOMEthing for the $600 fender repair bill). It would be ironic if people cut off the head and just took the carcass. Have deer heads sitting along the road, staring at the drivers-by.

  13. lampropeltis
    November 9, 2010 10:16 am

    This should clear it up.

    Pennsylvania Game Law, Title 58

    § 147.142. Wildlife disposition.
    (a) Consumption permit. The Commission, in its sole discretion, may issue a consumption permit to a resident of this Commonwealth to authorize the possession and consumption of the edible portions of any wildlife carcass. A permit issued under this subsection will be valid for a period not to exceed 120 days from the date of issuance. The whole, or any part of any wildlife possessed under this subsection, may not be transferred to another person nor may any edible portion be removed from the possessor’s place of residence for any purpose other than processing. Inedible portions of any wildlife possessed under this subsection shall be surrendered to the Commission or disposed of in a manner directed by the Commission.

    (1) General procedures. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (2), a person shall contact the Commission to obtain a paper consumption permit prior to taking possession of the carcass of any wildlife.

    (2) Special procedures for deer and turkey accidentally killed by a motor vehicle. A person is authorized to take immediate possession of the carcass of a deer or turkey evidently killed accidentally by a motor vehicle and transport it to a place of safekeeping within this Commonwealth. A person taking possession of a deer or turkey carcass under this paragraph shall contact the Commission to obtain a permit number within 24 hours after having taken possession of the deer or turkey carcass. The issued permit number itself shall be considered a valid permit for the purposes of authorizing the continued possession of the edible portions of the deer or turkey carcass.

    (b) Furbearing species accidentally killed by a motor vehicle. A person holding a valid Pennsylvania furtaker’s license is authorized to take immediate possession of and utilize the edible and inedible portions of any furbearer, except river otters, bobcats and fishers, evidently killed accidentally by a motor vehicle. Any person taking possession of any furbearer under this subsection during the closed season for the taking of the same shall contact the Commission to make notification of the possession within 24 hours.

    (c) Unlawful acts. It is unlawful to:

    (1) Possess the whole or any part of any wildlife without receiving any required permit, making any required notification or meeting any applicable eligibility standards within any applicable time restrictions.

    (2) Fail to surrender the inedible portions of any wildlife possessed under the authorizations of subsection (a) to the Commission or to dispose of the same in the manner directed by the Commission.

    (3) Violate any other provisions of this section.

    (d) Inapplicability. This section does not limit the lawful possession of the whole or any part of any wildlife that is otherwise authorized by § 147.141 (relating to the sale of wildlife and wildlife parts).

    IN OTHER WORDS: You can take the deer, and eat the deer. The hide & horns have to be turned over to the PGC.

    And there is nothing wrong with deer that are killed by cars. I’ve had it. Tastes like venison.

  14. Jess
    November 9, 2010 10:19 am

    I’m all for treating animals well (while they are alive, anyway) but I have to agree – if it was killed accidentally by a car and already dead, who really cares what happens to the deer’s body?

  15. Maitri
    November 9, 2010 10:28 am

    Lurker delurking.

    I was going to write a post today about learning something new everyday but it has to do with cellular function after death.

    Something new I learned yesterday from a lawyer friend is that in case of a collision between your car and one of our fuzzy, pronged friends, always tell the report that the deer hit you and not the other way around. Apparently, insurance may not cover “I hit the deer” but will cover “the deer ran into my car.”

    So, the deer wasn’t killed. It killed itself. Too bad the rats with wings won’t.

  16. Ted
    November 9, 2010 10:37 am

    @Maitri – my insurance agent told me that with my 500 dollar collision and 0 dollar comprehensive deductibles, it is always better to hit the deer, than to swerve and hit a telephone pole.

    At least for State Farm, a deer strike is considered comprehensive insurance, while guard rail/other cars/telephone poles are collision

  17. bluzdude
    November 9, 2010 10:47 am

    I’m cracking up at Bucdaddy’s WV version of Lord of the Flies.

  18. BDK
    November 9, 2010 11:10 am

    If you want the head you should have to take the whole body. Last thing i want to see is Bambi getting it’s head sawed off on the side of 79

  19. Melissa
    November 9, 2010 11:12 am

    I hear ya! My husband were just talking about this this morning. Apparently, while it is illegal, taxidermists will often cut off the head to preserve and sell it. I think the problem is that, in theory, they don’t know how the deer died. The idea of a taxidermist zipping around in his truck so he can hit a deer and take it’s head sounds ridiculous to me, but lots of stuff sounds crazy to me. In this case I think it made the news because there were five deer in the same area. Who knows?

  20. Pingback: Conversations With Maitri & D » Maitri's VatulBlog

  21. Wardy
    November 9, 2010 11:40 am



    Just a thought.

  22. Monty
    November 9, 2010 1:15 pm

    Re: #3. I’ve managed to convince my squirts that rest of the deer is behind the wall, and he just pokes his head through to engage in staring contests.

  23. Beth
    November 9, 2010 2:43 pm

    I can’t remember where it was exactly, but on 380 coming back into the city from Saltsburg this weekend, I actually SAW a headless deer carcass. My first thought was, “How the hell did THAT happen?” But then it freaked my shit out a lil bit. Especially since I’ve been reading “The Passage.”

  24. Chris
    November 9, 2010 2:45 pm

    Most of it was covered correctly in some of the above comments, but two important points are that:

    1) the PGC has jurisdiction and ownership of all mammals and birds in the Commonwealth, hence needing a license/permit to obtain them.

    2) A lot of information and data is collected off road killed animals to inform the PGC’s management of the deer herd. Poaching interferes with a lot of this data collection.

    Also, urban deer management is going to be one of the next big things around Pittsburgh. Its going to be a battle of bambi-lovers versus the rest of the environmentalists.

  25. PA Girl in VA
    November 9, 2010 4:02 pm

    @Monty: Several years ago, my hubby and I were dining at a local steak chain restaurant that has the heads of various wild animals plastered all over the walls. At the table next to us, a man, woman and two children – both grade school aged – were enjoying their meal when one of the little boys looked up at a buffalo/bison head and asked (his mommy or daddy, but presumably not me), “I wonder where the rest of that buffalo is?” Before I could even think about stopping myself, I turned to him and said, “It’s on your plate.” I didn’t even think about what that might do to the kid or how much his parents probably wouldn’t think that was very funny. And I honestly don’t remember anyone’s reaction except that I know they didn’t start throwing punches at me. Oh well, kid. That’s life (and death).

  26. Kathy
    November 9, 2010 4:52 pm

    everyone has already said it, but yeah, it’s licensing. Or, at least it is in Oregon where my BIL hunts. Basically, you have to have a license to have a deer part. Also, in Oregon you can only hunt animals of a certain maturity and they use the racks to determine that. From what I understand, you could cut the head off an illegal kill to hide the age. I also understand that in OR they want the hunter to properly dispose of the carcass; i.e. if you’re just a guy that kills for the trophies (which I personally find horrifically wasteful and obscene), you could just leave the carcass to pollute the area and attract predators which would obviously be a hazard for other people in the area.

  27. bucdaddy
    November 9, 2010 7:12 pm

    Also, urban deer management is going to be one of the next big things around Pittsburgh. Its going to be a battle of bambi-lovers versus the rest of the environmentalists.

    We’re going through that in my city, which by most accounts is infested with deer. Mrs. Daddy and I were backing down the driveway Sunday morning (and not at 6 a.m., more like 10 a.m.) when she pointed up the street and said, “Look!” And there were three deer — two does and a young-un — strolling down the street with complete impunity, absolutely fearless.

    I like looking at them. They’re magnificent animals. I DON’T like having to drive 40 in a 55 zone because the bastards are everywhere and tend to jump in front of you at the last second. I witnessed a horrific deer-car accident last year that the driver somehow managed to survive.

    We have, unfortunately, eliminated most or all of the whitetail’s natural predators. It is now up to us to be the predator that controls the herd.

  28. Andy T.
    November 10, 2010 11:03 pm

    I agree that deer are not pets, but not everyone does. Audrey Hepburn, for instance, kept a deer as a pet.