Friday, May 20, 2005

Deer Crossing

I have never been personally involved in a collision with a deer. One thing I know: It tends to do a real number on the vehicle. There are many deer around here; Lots of woods and windy roads around here, too. Sometimes I see them on the road - usually at night, and so far have managed to slow down and avoid harm. The image of my car slamming into the body of an animal - that really freaks me out. I think we all would love to reduce the number of such horrifying experiences.

It's clear that the deer population as a whole does not respond to negative reinforcement. They see others get hit, and yet still they insist upon freezing up right there in the middle of the road, staring at the scary bright headlights.

Sometimes I see signs, warning of deer. But these are general... they basically mean that deer could pop out anywhere on the whole road. That's how I got this idea: the deer crossing.

Deer are creatures of habit. They roam through the woods with no regard to property lines, yet they seem to have a system. Ask anyone who have deer pass through their yard... it's roughly the same time every day. They are grazing. Deer cross the roads at will, often paying no attention to the possibility of cars. So if they are creatures of habit, wouldn't it be nice to be able to predict where they cross?

We can lure them to more likely cross in certain places. We could have leaping deer signs that actually mean something...

This would require the use of a bit of land on each side of the road, in sporadic places determined to be convenient for the deer's nomadic lifestyle. "Adopt a Deer Crossing" sponsers can fund the planting and "maintenance" of abundant deer treats. The idea is to have plants that will attract deer to the area each day. Then, directly across the street, there are more of the same plants visible. Deer will see this, and then cross the street to get more. Then they will come back each day, always crossing the road in this same place.

Deer crossing locations would have to be chosen very carefully. It should have good visibility for drivers, and they need to connect areas of woods in convenient locations for the deer. Studying the daily travel path of groups of deer would help us greatly to determine crossing locations, as well as whether the idea would work at all.

It seems like a great idea, but it has some serious kinks. Will the deer adjust their roaming patterns to cross in only these locations? If they cross at the crossing, but continue to cross at other random locations, the deer crossing will not help us. On the other hand, if it does work, providing areas of plentiful food and reducing the fatality rate due to cars would certainly effect the overall population. Aside from raising the number of kills allowed for hunting licenses, we have little control over a possible explosion in population.

A rise in deer population could mean more deer than the area can support. Ecologists would need to consider the full ramifications of this plan; it's effects on the environment and the overall food chain would need to be monitored carefully. More deer would also mean more deer ticks, an idea that would not be popular around here, I can assure you. It is possible that deer realize the danger of oncoming headlights, and freeze on purpose, because they are starving, and would rather die. In this case my idea is pretty worthless, isn't it?


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