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The Quiet Victims of Nashville’s Tornadoes

A strange screaming came from the woods thirty-six hours after tornadoes leveled parts of East Nashville. The tornadoes touched down twenty-plus miles from our house, and local creeks had flooded but nothing more serious. The cries weren’t human, yet we never heard anything like them before.

Mason walked behind our house to investigate and saw our neighbor’s two dogs attacking a deer.  Mason immediately knew the deer was hurt, so hurt he couldn’t or wouldn’t move. His leg looked broken. The animal didn’t have spots but he was too small to be an adult. Mason shooed away the dogs, and they instantly obeyed. The dogs are giant beasts but mostly well behaved and harmless. That hurt deer must have triggered something wild in them, because they had ganged up on him.

The deer stopped screaming as soon as the dogs disappeared. If two domesticated mutts were beating up that defenseless animal, what would happen when the coyotes got to him? And a lot of coyotes live around us. We hear their Wildling-like calls almost daily.

We tried calling Walden’s Puddle, a badass wildlife rehabilitation center outside of Nashville. They had helped us in the past with a fawn and a baby falcon. I got a busy signal. I tried calling every fifteen minutes for the next three hours, but those tornadoes displaced uncountable animals, both domestic and wild. They must have been overwhelmed, and no one ever answered.

As the sun hovered over the tree line, we reluctantly agreed to call the local wildlife commission. We couldn’t let that little guy suffer any more than he had. And a pack of coyotes tearing him apart would be akin to medieval torture.

The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission sent their game warden.The warden said even if a natural disaster hadn’t overwhelmed Walden’s Puddle, they wouldn’t be able to save the deer. He said a car must have hit him. I don’t know if he was trying to make us feel better, but it didn’t work. I heard the gunshots from my office.  The warden shot him twice, once in the head and once in the chest, and both times I flinched.

In many ways, I feel strange even writing about that deer in reference to the tornadoes because so many people lost so much. Twenty-five people even lost their lives. But, I wouldn’t be an animal activist unless I pointed out how many local nonprofit organizations need help right now, organizations just like Walden’s Puddle. 

Late that night, the moonlight glowed white on the grass. We had so much rain this month that it’s been a long time since I saw moonlight. A coyote suddenly started howling. He was so close it sounded like he stood outside the fence. A few seconds later his pack answered. Their baying rose and fell in that frenzied otherworldly yipping. They had found the dead little deer.