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MARTHA SEZ: Oh, deer, not my car! My beautiful, banged-up car

February 23, 2018
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

It finally happened. Vehicular accidents involving deer are common in these parts. There are more than 1 million every year in the United States, and more than 200 resultant deaths. Human deaths. I'm sure that the deer fare much worse. What I mean is, it finally happened to me.

For years, I have been afraid of hitting a deer with my car. I know how difficult they can be to avoid, even when a driver takes every precaution.

Once I was riding in my friend Joe's car traveling along a wooded road, both of us minding our own business, when a white-tailed deer, a buck, emerged from the trees and began galloping at top speed along a slanted trajectory toward the car. Alarmed, Joe accelerated, but the deer kept coming. There was no help for it. The buck slammed into the back door on the passenger side and glanced off the vehicle before recovering its balance and bounding back into the woods. I imagine an injured animal travels a certain distance on adrenalin before it collapses.

Over the years I have known lots of people who collided with deer on the road. I knew it could happen to me, but I sort of hoped I had a secret mojo, some dispensation from the Universe, to keep me safe.

No mojo. No dispensation. Last Saturday I was driving south to Keene Valley when I hit a deer just past the DOT sand pit.

In my own defense: The deer ran into me. You might say it attacked me. I never saw it coming. It must have run full tilt down the hill into the state road before smashing into the driver's side of my little Honda.

The Trailways bus, headed for Malone, stopped to avoid hitting the deer, which was lying in the opposite lane. I don't know what happened to the deer after that. As I waited for the state police to arrive I noticed that traffic was moving smoothly again in both directions.

By the way, speaking of the state police, if you ever have an automobile accident with a deer and a trooper hands you a piece of paper, read it carefully and follow the instructions, which tell you to fill out an accident report form and send it to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. It is really hard to figure out how to fill out this form, and I still haven't done it yet, but if you don't, you can lose your license. I would never have noticed this, but a friend told me.

"No, I don't have to do that, Pam."

"Yes, you do! Yes you do!"

"Pretty sure I don't."

"Yes, you do! Read it."

(Reading it) "Oh."

White-tailed deer are the most dangerous mammal in the United States, according to a study published in 2016 by Laura R. Prugh, a wildlife scientist at the University of Washington, and Sophie Gilbert, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Idaho. Their solution? Reintroduction of the white-tailed deer's natural predator, the mountain lion, or cougar.

I mentioned this study in a previous column when I was angry with deer for eating my tulips. The trouble is, cougars can be a problem, too.

In Western states, including Colorado and Oregon, there have been reports of mountain lions entering homes through dog doors in order to prey on pets. Joggers and hikers have also been attacked by cougars. Prugh and Gilbert maintain that deer-vehicle accidents kill more people every year than cougars would.

What about fencing? A deer fence needs to be 7.5 to 8 feet high to be effective, although deer can leap higher than 8 feet when pursued by predators.

Adrenalin, again. If cougars are reintroduced, the higher fencing will be required. Roads in the Adirondacks and the Catskills should be fenced to keep deer from attacking motorists, but where does the funding come from? After walling ourselves off from Mexico, and then, it follows, from Canada along our northern border, I doubt Congress will allocate money for deer fencing.

What about deer whistles as a deterrent? As a solution to the deer accident problem, whistles are far less drastic than cougars and less expensive than miles of fencing. Unfortunately, according to a University of Georgia study: "... auditory deterrents do not appear to be appropriate for prevention of deer-vehicle collisions."

The worst part is, it occurs to me that now that I have hit a deer-it can happen again.

Have a good week.



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