Tree of Death (warning – graphic!)

 In late January my friend Mia and I made the drive to the Promontory area north of the Great Salt Lake in a quest for Golden Eagle photos.  We did find some eagles but were definitely unprepared for what else we stumbled upon.  

Second warning – most of these photos are graphic and may be profoundly disturbing to some.  If you proceed further in this post, please – no complaints about what you’ve seen.  You have been twice forewarned. 


a misleadingly idyllic scene   A misleadingly idyllic scene

What we found was the kind of country that I love – wide open spaces, big skies, blissful silence and isolation.  The setting reminded me of the area around Cut Bank, Montana where I grew up. 



Tree of death

Tree of death

So what a shock it was to come around a bend in the dirt road by this little reservoir and find such a horrific scene!  Someone had apparently shot two Red Foxes, a domestic cat and a Common Raven and deliberately hung them in this tree right next to the road as some sort of a sick trophy display.



First Red Fox in tree

First Red Fox in tree

This Red Fox had been hung by its neck in a fork of branches.



Second Red Fox in tree

Second Red Fox in tree

This one was simply draped over a stronger branch, very close to the road and with no obstructing branches between the fox and everyone who was forced to look at it as they came around the curve in the road.



Cat impaled on fence post

Cat impaled on fence post

Just a few feet away from the tree, this cat had been impaled on a metal fence post. 



Cat in another tree

 Yet another cat in another tree

Very close to the tree of death, another cat in another tree.  And just down the road there was a coyote hanging on the fence line. 

A friend of mine who had seen some of these photos contacted the Humane Society of Utah and their chief investigator asked me for more information about where and when the photos were taken so I made a trip to his office and filled him in on what I knew and provided him with most of the images I’ve posted here.  He told me that desecration of wildlife laws, among others, had likely been broken and that the incident would be investigated.  I called him yesterday to check on any progress and he said that the local sheriff and Utah DNR officers had visited the site, took more photos and then appropriately disposed of the carcasses.  Investigation is continuing. 

Some may ask why I needed to post such graphic photos and so many of them.  After all, wouldn’t just one distant shot of the animals in the tree be enough to illustrate the situation?  I don’t think so.  My intention here was to shock to some degree, to not downplay the horror of the scene, to in some small way help to galvanize the reaction of a small portion of public opinion to the conclusion that animal abuse, desecration of wildlife and wanton killing should be unacceptable and laws designed to prevent such practices should be strictly enforced.  I hope you agree…





25 comments to Tree of Death (warning – graphic!)

  • Amy

    Are you sure these animals were shot before they were hung? In rural Indiana, I often see animals hanging from fences, and I assume many (or most) of them were roadkills. I don’t know why people hang them up like that. Yuck.

    A bend in the road is a likely spot to catch animals crossing the road by surprise.

    • Amy, Well, I certainly didn’t necropsy them but I’m almost certain they were shot. This tree is at the bottom of a hill on a dirt road and vehicle speeds have to be slow – roadkill very unlikely. And roadkill is usually messy, these animals were not. Besides, it’s an old “country tradition” to hang shot “vermin” on fences or whatever is available along roads to display the carcasses.

      I’d bet my most expensive lens that your Indiana “fence trophies” aren’t road kill either.

  • Nancy DeWitt

    I’m not sure which I find more disturbing: that some sick person would commit such heinous acts, or that the residents of the area drove past this grisly scene repeatedly without an apparent care. Thank you for reporting it.

  • I agree. Thanks for not glossing over the evidence of wanton waste of life that you unfortunately stumbled upon. Sometimes we need to be confronted with realities.

  • Oh, Ron, this is such an important post, if almost unbearable to contemplate. I’ve witnessed similar disregard for animals, having lived in a number of different places in my lifetime. I believe one of the failings (among many) in our wildlife regulations, is the total disregard for “varmint” animals, as hunters like to call them. As you probably know, there are no limits nor limitations on certain “pest” animals and “non-native” animals, and it tends to breed a malicious and violent ethic toward wildlife like coyotes and foxes. It brings out the worst in people who are otherwise on the edge of this type of pathological behavior. I spend a lot of time discussing these issues with hunters, trying to evoke a change of heart on the issues at large, but the impulses appear too hard-wired to make an significant impact. I keep hoping for a sea change in our societal view toward wildlife. Although sometimes, it feels like we’re moving backward after several decades of progress … I refuse to succumb to that disillusionment.

    • Once again I couldn’t agree with you more Ingrid. These behaviors are truly pathological as you said. And what “hunters” are legally entitled to do to “varmints” all too often pervades their attitudes toward other animals, legal or not, if they think they can get away with it. I’m not sure how accurate my perception is but I’m getting the sense of some hopeful polarization of hunter’s attitudes in general – with many of them becoming more sensitive to the way these senseless acts reflect badly on the activity they hold so dear – hunting. Hopefully the tide will continue to turn but I’m a pessimist at heart and don’t like to get my expectations up too high…

  • Heidi – sorry I’m so late in answering your question about “Say Goodbye”. A little research suggests it may be unavailable. Even Rod McKuen apparently can’t locate a current copy. See McKuen’s comment on that issue here:

  • Heidi

    Thank you for posting these pictures Ron. Extremely hard to look at. Makes me sick to my stomach and fills me with an unsettling rage. I recently started writing politicians (very unlike me) regarding stricter regulations for wildlife permits. This triggered by the recent death of many beautiful helpess animals and the fear for many reptiles about to be euthinized here. I would also like to do something in regards to more appropriate punishment for animal abuse. I know some has been done, but not near enough. Any suggestions how or where a person can make a difference?
    One more thing…I’d like to watch the movie you mentioned “Say Goodbye” but having a hard time finding it. Any suggestions there?
    Thanks again for sharing these pictures. They are hard to look at but important to see.

  • Thank you all for the recent comments on this post. Having lived on a farm when I was growing up back in the 50’s and 60’s I recognize that the behavior illustrated by these photos is something that was on the cusp of acceptability back then, right or wrong. But folks should know better by now, rural or not. I just hope that this post helped to illustrate an ongoing problem and perhaps helps to change some attitudes.

    Back in the 70’s, a documentary titled “Say Goodbye” narrated by Rod McKuen was nominated for an academy award. It was a heartwrenchingly graphic depiction of man’s inhumanity to animals for greedy or heartless purposes. I showed it to my high school zoology and biology classes for many years. McKuen’s closing line, as we watched two orphaned polar bear cubs bawling in bewilderment after “hunters” flew off in a helicopter with the hide of their mother, was “Grieve – for them, and for us”.

    I’ll never forget it.

  • Barbara Janes

    Hell must be empty because the devils are all here on earth…what kind of thing does this ,not human for sure…I am grieving for the suffering and death of these beautiful animals but I would love to see the evil things that are responsible for this severely punished….Oh my God ,the world is mad.

  • machen dave

    Not seen any thing like this for years. In the UK (where I live) they were called “gamekeepers gibbets”.
    The keeper would shoot or poison predators and hang them on a fence or tree as a warning.
    This is now illegal throughout the UK. Hope that the people that did this can be found.

  • Ellisa Skelding

    I hope the sick, twisted, cruel scum who did this endures the same terrifying, painfull death these innocent animals did and I hope it happens soon!!

  • Lynn Schlosser

    Thank you for taking the evidence to authorities. I totally agree that we need laws against such abuse and they need to be enforced! I so urgently hope that the law officials take this seriously and don’t give up until the perp has been caught. Sadly were I live the authoirites could care less and are useless.

  • definitively a mass murderer in the making! this is no joke either…don’t they all start with animal before killing humans?????

  • Bev

    Thank you so much for these pictures. Yes for sure it shows the sick and horrible things done to the precious babies!!!! I hope they catch these sickos and maybe hang them up in the trees by their private parts,,,, if they even have any!!!!!!! Thank you for following through!

  • Lee Hayes

    Thank you for following through, hard to stomach, but it needs to be seen

  • wow. what a f’ed site to come upon. i would have been disturbed. they don’t look like they’d been there long. looks like something you’d see in Eastern Europe. ugh. no bueno.

  • judy

    I too, am glad you followed through. Hope the person(s) who did this are brought to justice. Next time – it might be a human. How can people be so sick?
    Thanks for sharing this – making us all aware. I will keep my eyes open for anything of this nature.

  • Mike

    Concur with your reasons to publish this scene. A raptor eating a meal is quite different from senseless killing. Clicking through the images on your site, it’s easy to forget that cruelness can rear it’s ugly head in the same place where you’ve so artfully captured nature’s beauty. Ignorance is not bliss. Pisses me off. A lot.

  • Yes, difficult to view. But I too think it is important to post the images and show viewers what has really happened.

  • thanks for this. i hope that the criminals are treated the same way. things like this make me think our society doesn’t have any hope to survive.

  • Mia

    I certainly agree with you Ron. I still shudder and get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I remember ths grisly scene.

  • Chuck Gangas

    I commend you on posting these images and following through with the appropriate authorities Ron. This obscene action cannot go unpunished, and my hope is for a speedy discovery of those responsible.