My unbroken streak of roughly 30 years’ driving without running into a deer came to an end Sunday night. I was at the wheel with a full load of family a couple of hours after dark, heading east on Pantigo Road. I noticed a vehicle, which was coming the opposite way near the Hildreth’s department store, suddenly slow, then a moment later a crashing thud came from my side of the car. Our middle child, who was seated behind me, started to weep; she said she thought someone was trying to kill her.
The deer we struck Sunday did a fair amount of damage to the door behind the driver of my wife’s leased Chevrolet. We were lucky that no one was hurt, though our daughter Evvy was mildly traumatized. I caught a glimpse of the deer in my side-view mirror as it staggered off the road; I don’t know how it fared after that, but I can guess.
October and November are considered the period of the year during which contact between deer and vehicles is most frequent. This is when the bucks are afoot looking to mate, and the does run scared — often right into traffic.
By coincidence on Tuesday morning, I was reading about the deer statistics in the Virginia-Maryland-D.C.-region on The Washington Post Web site. They were alarming, particularly for motorcyclists; an article said that seven had been killed after striking deer since 2009. In a report based on numbers compiled since 2009, I learned that an insurance industry group ranked West Virginia as the state with the highest likelihood that a motorist would strike a deer. New York was the 21st most-likely, though you have to wonder where eastern Long Island would rank on its own since the statistics are skewed by the high number of drivers in the state’s urban areas, where deer are fewer.
Over the days that preceded our incident, I had been up and out of the house early to fish and check the surf, and I had seen remarkable numbers of deer. After the fourth or fifth encounter, I noticed that all the does I had seen were being followed by a fawn or two, and a fair number seemed pregnant.
We may think the deer population is bad now, I thought, but just wait until this year’s doe fawns start having young of their own — while their mothers are still in their own prime breeding years.
The state advises New York motorists to slow down in the dawn and dusk hours from now until the end of December to reduce the chance of running into deer. Beyond that, there is not much we as individuals can do. And, though many people may object on emotional grounds, as the animals’ numbers continue to rise, stronger methods of control — including more hunting — must be pursued.