Author’s Note: As it is the first day of gun buck season in our state, deer will be on the run, and will illogically and without prejudice cross numerous roads and man-made barriers. I’ve been involved in a few collisions between deer and cars. This day reminds me of an event I witnessed probably eight to ten years ago…
WE INCHED FORWARD in our cars on the interstate, heading east, in a place where brilliant planning years before had three lanes of busy traffic, and a well-used on-ramp, merge to cross a two-lane bridge. Collisions were a daily occurrence causing even bigger problems. Today was not one of those days, and still we progressed slowly.
The three lanes heading west had no such worries. Traffic was sparse in comparison, but jetting off the bridge at a quick rate and in a speed-enhancing decent.
As I approached the high-alert zone, an adult female deer jumped off a hillside to the left of the highway with the intention of crossing the western lanes. She was beautiful. A feeling of dread overtook me because I felt her chance of survival was slim. Speeding cars shot by like bullets. That she made it across – a look of timid, anxiety on her face and unsure, frightened legs beneath her – was a miracle. Not a single car seemed to even hit their brakes.
She jumped the barrier to my side of the interstate effortlessly, and with the cars at a pace slower than the U.S. Mail, she weaved her way across safely, just a car ahead of me. When she crossed the shoulder to the right she again leapt gracefully and disappeared.
It was only when I was even with the point of her departure that I made a startling revelation. She had not jumped to the sloping safety of the green grass of the huge tract of land that was enclosed by the off ramp. She had jumped from what was — and is — an overpass. She had flown on to another busy secondary road, some thirty or thirty-five feet below.
The woman in the car next to me seemed to come to the same conclusion as we made frantic eye contact.
And as I continued to surge forward, starting only to stop, a few feet at a time, I tried to imagine what must have happened when she landed, if she landed on the roof of a car, or worse yet crashed through some unsuspecting driver’s windshield in her unfettered fall. I imagined the shock and fear a driver would feel.
But then I thought about what a deer must feel every time it changes its course, or stares at a body of drinking water across a highway and a railroad track, and wonders if it will ever be safe again.