Close encounters

October 19, 2010

The commute to my job takes me through some pretty rural areas.  I pass a lot of farms and open fields and even though I sometimes get stuck behind farm trucks and combines and God-only-knows-what-manner of farm vehicles, I very much enjoy the drive to and from work.  Until this morning.

I am a HUGE animal lover.  In fact, some people would say I like animals more than I like people.  On a lot of days, they would be right.  On my way to and from work, I see a lot of road kill.  Mostly skunks and raccoons and lately a lot of possums.  Occasionally a rabbit.  I find it disturbing, but if it’s a choice of hitting the animal or being hit yourself, I can see why there’s a lot of road kill.  Animals are unpredictable at the best of times and when you add darkness/early morning, oncoming headlights, traffic and human reflexes to the mix it often doesn’t end well for the animal.

Since starting my job in April I’ve had three deer encounters.  The first one was when I braked suddenly to avoid hitting the car in front of me that had stopped suddenly to avoid hitting a fawn crossing the road.  No one, including the fawn, was hurt.  I was a little shaken from the adrenaline rush but that also could have come from seeing a baby deer up close and personal. 

The second incident happened in the middle of the day when I was driving along a country road to Mary Maxim.  A deer burst out of a junior school driveway and zigzagged towards me.  Fortunately I was alert and driving slowly due to a bend in the road and was able to brake in time to avoid hitting it.  But it did run alongside my car for a moment, so close that I could see the rain drops on it’s back, until it ran back to safety.  I think it’s safe to say that both of us were quite shaken.  Again, no one was hurt.

Today though was a different story.  Around 8:15 am I was driving to work and collided with a deer.  Actually, collided with a deer is exaggerating the encounter, but it did hit my car.  I am, for some unexplainable reason, an excellent animal spotter (I’m also really good at puzzles and I wonder if there’s a correlation..something to do with recognizing shapes maybe?) and out of the corner of my eye I saw a deer run onto the highway.  I drive to work on a secondary, two lane highway and I’m forever grateful that it was not busy today.  The deer was heading straight for my car (for the record a I drive a compact car) and it would have struck the driver’s side if I hadn’t slammed on my brakes.  Granted, I was going considerably more than the posted speed limit allowed, but at the point of impact I was doing about 50 km (about 30 mph) and that deer was running right beside the car. 

The impact was slight for me, but probably not so slight for the deer.  It hit my driver’s side door and veered off back to culvert on the side of the road.  But it was so close I could see the whites of its eyes, and for that brief moment as we looked into each other’s eyes, I think both of us could taste the fear of the impact between flesh and polymer. 

I came to a full stop on the highway (which fortunately was empty) and took a moment to breathe.  I was fine, the deer was fine and the car was fine.  So I carried on.  As I got maybe 100 m (328 ft) away I looked in my rearview mirror.  The car coming up behind me had hit the deer.  Which was now skidding across the oncoming lane of traffic on its side, its legs flailing.  For the second time in less than a minute I came to a full stop.  The car that hit the deer pulled to the side of the road.  The deer was now back in the culvert due to the force of the impact.  I am hoping the driver of the car that hit the deer was going to check and see if the deer was ok, but I suspect that (s)he was stopping to check for damage to their car.  Fair enough.  I’d check my car too.  Eventually.  And there was nothing anyone could do if the deer was injured.  Maybe call the police who would shoot it if they had to.  I don’t know. 

Feeling really sick I didn’t have much choice but to keep driving to work and let the adrenaline work its way out of my system.  Stopping on any highway for even a few moments is never a good idea, even if the bright light of day.  I never saw the deer get up but the road curved and I was quickly out of sight of the “crash” site.  I hadn’t noticed any gore on the car or the deer or the road but that’s not an indication of anything.  And the driver of the car seemed ok as well.  (S)He slowed down smoothly and stopped in a controlled manner, which makes me believe they weren’t seriously hurt.  I am choosing to believe the deer eventually walked away.

I emailed the Hubs when I got to work to ask him to dig up his deer whistle from when he worked in the heart of deer country earlier in the year.  I don’t know if they work but I can’t face almost hitting (or worse, hitting) another deer.  I ran over a chipmunk in August and nearly threw up on the spot.  I still feel guilty about it.  Not to mention, I don’t even want to think about what kind of damage hitting a large animal would do to my car.  Or me.  Or the deer.

The Hubs called me back immediately.  Which is unusual.  He next to never calls me at work.  But he said he was worried about me.  He wanted to make sure I was safe and he knows how much I love animals so he was worried about my mental state.  He’s going out to buy a deer whistle after work, no fooling around.  I have a knack for wildlife encounters and three deer are enough for me.  I’m more than happy to watch them on the side of the road.  Preferably alive.