Conflicting accounts have emerged about the fate of a wounded deer on Highway 19A south of Campbell River.
A Campbell River woman has claimed that a highway worker participated in the alleged beheading of the injured animal, an act that she called cruel and unnecessary.
But an official from Emcon, the road maintenance firm, has said that highway workers weren’t involved in the killing of the animal, and that the supposed decapitation never occurred.
The alleged incident came to light after Crystal Martin, who was driving along the Old Island Highway near Jubilee Parkway, stopped to intervene and take photos.
Snapping those photos resulted in a heated roadside confrontation, with one man allegedly chasing her away from the scene in a fury.
Martin said the deer, which had been struck by a vehicle, was standing and walking around when she arrived on the scene on the afternoon of June 6.
Two men then allegedly forced the deer to the ground, kicking the animal in the head repeatedly while restraining it with rope, before they beheaded the deer using what Martin described as a hacksaw.
The saw and rope were supplied by a highway worker who arrived on the scene shortly after Martin, she said, adding that the worker stood on the animal and kicked it, and that the men appeared to be taunting the animal.
She tried to intervene and take photos of the incident with her cell phone, but one of the men allegedly chased her away, trying to grab her and take her phone before she fled to her car and hit the automatic lock.
The man then banged aggressively on the car before walking away.
Martin, who has hearing loss, said she couldn’t understand exactly what the man was saying but that he was yelling and swearing.
“I felt terrified,” she said. “This guy tried to grab my body.”
Martin, who studies human resource management, reported the incident to police but said “they didn’t acknowledge” what she called an assault against her.
As for the alleged cruelty towards the animal, she said police referred her to the BC Conservation Office in Courtenay.
In a Facebook post, she called for other witnesses to come forward.
The Campbell River RCMP media contact didn’t return a request for comment on Friday, but Cpl. Ron Vlooswyk reportedly stated that no criminal offence occurred, but that the men should have contacted police or a conservation officer.
According to a media report, Campbell River RCMP also indicated that the police received no word of threats towards Martin.
Worker “had nothing to do” with killing
A highway worker provided a very different version of events, according to Stewart Westwood, an operations manager for Emcon Services, the highway maintenance firm responsible for roads in the North Island area.
Westwood, who interviewed a highway worker after the incident took place, said an Emcon employee went to retrieve the carcass of a struck animal, only to find that it was still alive.
“When the operator got out, it jumped up,” he said.
The company’s usual protocol is to contact the RCMP or conservation officers when a wounded animal isn’t dead, but members of the public decided to “put it out of its misery,” he said.
The men didn’t behead the animal, he said, but slit its throat.
“Their idea was they were going to bleed the deer out,” he said.
Westwood said his employee described a woman taking pictures of the scene before a confrontation took place.
“The guy who was putting the deer down said: ‘Stop taking my picture, you don’t have the right to do that.’”
When she persisted, the man said he wanted the photos deleted.
“They exchanged words and he went to her car,” said Westwood. “That’s all I know.”
The deer’s carcass was then removed in an Emcon truck, he said, noting that highway workers “had nothing to do with how they killed the deer.”
The removal of roadkill is a daily occurrence for the company, he added. The firm receives at least one call daily for the removal of struck animals in the North Island service area – which stretches from Cook Creek to Port Hardy – but highway workers sometimes deal with up to 20 animals in a day, said Westwood.
The BC Conservation Service said in a statement that members of the public who accidentally injure wildlife – whether by vehicle or otherwise – should reach out to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline.
People trying to help animals on the road could get hit by a passing car, or the animal could end up in the roadway, leading to further injuries to the animal or to another member of the public, according to the statement.
The statement also noted that although conservation officers may need to euthanize injured animals, “this is always done in the most humane manner possible” and that members of the general public “should not attempt to do this themselves.”