The Semiotics of a Deer Beheading in Houston

I read today that a tame deer was beheaded at the Bear Creek Pioneer Park “wildlife sanctuary” in Houston.  Having spent some time in Houston, it surprised me to learn of the existence of a wildlife sanctuary there.  So I looked it up.  Wikipedia describes Bear Creek Pioneers Park thus (the park itself has no working url):

Bear Creek Pioneers Park . . . has paved roads and parking spaces that visitors can use. The park also has walking trails, an equestrian trail, a small zoo (including buffalos, an ostrich, and emus) and aviary, playgrounds, soccer fields, little league and softball fields, four lighted tennis courts, eight picnic pavilions, horseshoe courts, and hundreds of picnic tables and grills. Near the aviary ducks can been seen walking freely around a pond. The park also has restrooms all around the park and drinking water fountains. The park is open all week from 7:00 am until 10:00 pm (local time).

Though I have never been to this place, I have visited quite a few wildlife sanctuaries.  None had little league fields, playgrounds, or lighted tennis courts.  And most importantly, none had zoos.  Indeed, wildlife sanctuaries are in many (most? all?) respects the antithesis of zoos.  They are supposed to be places where wildlife can live in their natural habitat, free of human encroachment and predation.  As a result, one rarely encounters wildlife sanctuaries in major cities.  Indeed, Houston would have topped my list of the least likely places to find one.  Furthermore, animals in wildlife sanctuaries are not “tame.”  “Tame wildlife” is an oxymoron.  I could say more about this but, of necessity, I move on.

At this alleged wildlife sanctuary, someone cut through the fence penning in the animals and beheaded a “tame deer” that dwelt within.  The perpetrator then made off with the head and antlers.  This act outraged the Harris County Commissioner who declared that anyone who kills an animal in captivity “is just the lowest of the low.”   The article informs us that taxidermy shops throughout Houston were alerted to the crime.

One has to wonder what the taxidermy shops were told to look for.  Is it unusual for someone to stride into such places clutching a bloody head and antlers?  While such patrons would stand out in most places, taxidermists cater to people who kill animals and then seek to turn parts of the corpses into wall hangings.

I wonder too if the Harris County Commissioner feels equally outraged by the many “ranches” in Texas offering “high fenced” hunting safaris for those discerning sportsmen who crave a guaranteed kill.  Does he revile our soon-to-be former vice president, who regularly patronizes such places (and only occasionally shoots his host)?  This type of “canned hunting” is quite common in Texas as well as in many other states.

Perhaps the Commissioner (who I have never met and know nothing about) does revile activities of this sort.  Still, I remain bemused.  Of course, the slaughter of the deer was an atrocity.  But does no one else find it ironic that killing a captive deer in a “wildlife sanctuary” in a state where canned hunts are a popular pastime would generate such outrage and opprobrium?

I am beginning to truly grasp the meaning of “tragicomic.”

David Cassuto

One Response

  1. […] more here:  The Semiotics of a Tame Deer Beheading in Houston This entry was posted on Saturday, November 29th, 2008 at 10:02 pm and is filed under hunting. […]

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