A most dreadful waste in Pennsylvania
During late October and mid November I made two trips to the camp I’m a member of in Tioga County.
Both were four-day excursions archery hunting deer. On my first journey north, and my return trip, I counted 19 road kills of deer. On the second trip, a couple of weeks after the first, I counted 26 dead, some lying alongside the roadways, some smashed and piled on the lanes I traveled.
At some spots there was a large and extended splatter of blood that I assume was a whitetail meeting its demise at the front a heavy tractor-trailer, although I did not spot a carcass. These bloody patches I did not include in my “highway killed” count.
Forty-five deer, dead, and in most cases, beyond use for human consumption. Forty-five deer, that had they lived, may have provided an exciting encounter with a hunter young or old that was hoping to spot deer movement.
Granted, this time of year is when deer cross highways much more frequently than other times. But as any Pennsylvania resident who travels the roadways of this state knows, collisions with deer happen year-round.
Pennsylvania holds the unflattering distinction of being the top state in the entire country for highway accidents involving deer. The other top five following our state are Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Georgia.
Across the nation there are an average of 1.5 million accidents yearly involving deer and vehicles. Of that number, there is also an average of 150 human fatalities yearly caused by these collisions.
Of course, not only deer lay dead on highways from encounters with a moving vehicle. In my own travels I see plenty of squirrels, rabbits, songbirds, raccoons, opossums, a few turkeys and foxes — and even occasional turtles and coyotes, dead on the road.
I really don’t have an answer for how to help lower this carnage that kills both people and animals. I know that as human populations increase so do vehicles traveling roads increase. Just as certainly there has to be an increase in road widths and numbers.
Slowing down through countryside, fields and places of roadside forest can help someone spot a possible crossing and avoid a collision, although I witness a high rate of reluctance for people to do so as I watch them race on any highway they’re driving. Using high beams at night whenever possible is another way to avoid a possible collision by being able to spot an animal at a farther distance.
And in the case of deer crossings, knowing the mating season and hunting seasons when the animals move more frequently, and being aware of this crossing increase and slowing down accordingly through deer country, would help lower accidents.
As the opening of the major gun season begins this coming Saturday, there will be many hunters complaining of not seeing deer that first day when they are afield. The chances are good there would be many fewer of those complaints if those deer that died on our highways were still roaming the woods and fields these people hunt.