Whoa, Deer, What Can The Matter Be?

November is not the best time to be a deer in America.

     Good morning and greetings, Giants fans. What a tremendous time it is for Bay Area sports fans. The Giants are once again World Series champions, the 49ers are a powerhouse in the NFL and the Oakland A’s are coming off one of the most amazing seasons in baseball history. Throw in the Warriors, who if healthy, should be a playoff contender and that leaves just the Raiders, who still boast the Raiderettes. That’s commitment to sideline excellence.

     And come December, the D-League Santa Cruz Warriors hit the floor at the Kaiser Permanante Arena. It should be semi-NBA fantastic. In the words of former Warrior general manager Dick Vertleib, ” Basketball is the second most exciting indoor sport and the other one shouldn’t have spectators.”

     Former player turned analyst, Charles Barkley, who has put his foot in his mouth on air more than a baby chinchilla, once said of his fellow NBA players, “They run like deer, jump like deer and think like deer.” And that leads us into today’s topic.

     I’ve been spending a good deal of time this past month up on the hill at UC Santa Cruz, where I’ve been observing the landscape and wildlife. The latter would include rabbits, squirrels, black crows, Russell Crowe, hawks, doves, pacifists, hummingbirds, a bobcat and one wily coyote.

     But the animal that take center stage among the redwoods are the deer, as I have seen Bambi, Thumper, Donner, Blitzen and a cast of hundreds. Up in the woods, they have no fear of flying or humans as they casually munch away at the all-you-can-eat-brunch of trees, bushes and foreign exchange students.

     Every once in a while you see them cross the road to move onto another meadow. Fortunately in California, we observe the pedestrian right of way, which means you must stop for deer at corners or crosswalks, even if it’s in an open field setting. What this means is that Bambi and her friends can come and go as they please and not have to worry about being mowed down by a Toyota Forerunner on it’s way down the hill.

     But this doesn’t hold true for the rest of the nation. In a story written by Justin Hyde for Yahoo News, a new study has found that car-deer crashes are rising sharply after a few years of decline. This is just in time for the peak season, when the most deer in the northern and eastern parts of the U.S. are likely to play Russian Roulette along the interstate.

     The combination of too many cars and too many deer is a deadly one, as research from the Look Out, Bambi Institute has found that about 200 people a year die on the roads in crashes caused by darting deer.

     State Farm Insurance used its claims data to research the problem and estimated that deer and a family of porcupine hit 1.23 million vehicles between July 2011 and June 2012, which is up about 8% from last year. According to my calculations, over a 12 month period, that equates to over 100,000 of God’s little creatures being nailed on the road per month, which is not just a danger to them but to drivers throughout. But Pablo Picasso wouldn’t buy this. As he once said, “I don’t believe in accidents. There are only encounters in history.”

     Well, my Spanish friend, I wish you had told me that a couple years ago when two drivers nailed my Nissan Maxima twice in a year, causing over $4,000 in damage each time. Fortunately, like a good neighbor, State Farm was there and took care of me. I don’t want to say that I drive defensively now, but I’m like a savant as far as anticipating potential hazards rather than just reacting to them. And remember, please don’t squeeze the shaman.

     Most of this unfortunate action between man and venison occurs in the northern, eastern and in a few southern states. But the west coast has the sunshine and the girls all get so tanned. State Farm says the worst state in terms of nailing a deer is West Virginia, where a driver has a 1 in 40 chance of hitting in deer in the next 12 months. However, the odds are 1 in 60 in striking up an intelligent conversation with a Tea Party member.

     South Dakota, Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania are the next four states where the buck doesn’t stop here. The least likely state to hit a deer is Hawaii, where you are more likely to run over a plate lunch of chicken katsu, which includes two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad.

     So what’s the cause of the rise in deer related accidents? Well, you could point your finger at the deer population, as these herds have grown larger than Justin Bieber’s ego. We’re talking more than 20 million deer, and that’s with hunter’s playing pop-a-shot each fall during hunting season. A bigger deer population means more animals crossing the roads in search of food, water and good, clean family entertainment.

     Peak season for these deadly incidents is November. October and November are also peak mating season, and I can tell from personal experience that it’s a bitch getting jolted by a car’s bumper when you’re trying to take care of business.

     According to Susan G. Clark, a Yale University professor who studies relationships between humans, deer and a couple of antelope, these collisions usually take place at dawn and dusk. “Deer don’t come programmed to be on the lookout for cars. They have no idea that it could threaten their lives. If they were a wolf, they would have some idea what to do.” Or as my rabbi once told me, when you live with wolves, you learn to howl.

     So as Sergeant Phil Esterhaus used to say in his trademark phrase on Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.” But the final word of this subject belongs to Ellen DeGeneres, who had this thought. ‘I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her.”

     So for today’s photo lineup we are starting off with a shot I took recently up at the university. Then it’s on to two sets of deer who were visiting my neighborhood. I always enjoy looking out my office window and seeing deer prancing down the street. It brings back those Marlin Perkin’s “Wild Kingdom” flashbacks.

     Next is a frog that was hanging out inside a drainpipe at our Kauai vacation house. I told him I’d be glad to switch locales with him but he politely declined my offer. That guy was a prince.

     The last two shots are of a bobcat I shot at dusk up on campus. I had been looking to photograph the sunset but lucked out and ran into this beauty. Fortunately, he wasn’t in an attack mode and agreed to sign the release and we both went on our merry way.

     To check out these photos, click on http://www.SunriseSantaCruz.com/blog

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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