Monday, April 07, 2008

Animal Accidents

Once again, I haven't posted in a long time.

It's not that I don't have things to say, it's that I have too many.

I come up with ideas for posts and usually start composing them in my head, when I'm on my way to class or before I fall asleep or things like that. But then I forget about them, lose the start, and the idea is lost somewhere in my brain. Even when I carry a little pocket notebook with me, I forget to write it down. I guess that's just how things go.

Yesterday I saw one of the most disturbing and unsettling sights of my life.
I was headed to Ann Arbor with some friends to participate in a street art festival, Festifools, in the early afternoon. All of the sudden, three deer came bolting out of the corner of my eye straight into the highway. The first deer was hit by the car in front of me. As a lifelong Michigan driver, as soon as I saw the deer I hit the brakes along with everyone else, but it was too fast for the deer and the car in front of mine. The deer was hit by the right headlight of the car at 70 mph and it spun in circles faster than I could have imagined, landing in the ditch. The driver pulled off, and there was broken glass along the lane along with splatters of various kinds from the deer, manure and the like. "Oh god," we were saying, "Did you see that?"

The other two deer had made it across two lanes of highway and were frenzied in the median, darting headlong with only the whites of their eyes to guide them. They somehow both managed to make it back across the highway and hopefully to safety. The deer who was hit wasn't moving, or at least wasn't visible down in the ditch. I'm sure it was killed upon impact. People slowly accelerated, eyes peeled in case any more deer might come dashing across the road. I followed suit, and was trying to avoid the broken headlight glass. And then...

I saw a slippery-looking mass lying in the lane, and immediately thought it must be the poor fallen deer's stomach or other organ. I maneuvered around it, trying to discern what it might be. I wish I hadn't looked. It was a fawn. A tiny, perfectly-formed deer lying sprawled across the hot highway concrete. I'm sure it was close to being born, because I believe deer give birth around May. It wasn't moving and I'm sure that if the doe was hit with enough force to abort the fetus instantly, the fetus was killed as well. I didn't stop the car and I'm kind of glad I didn't, because the sight of things like that tend to stick in my mind and haunt me at night for a long time afterward. But as it was, last night when I was trying to fall asleep all I could see was its tiny body on the concrete, A life over before it had even begun.

I've seen dead deer all over the place, and plenty of other types of "roadkill" as well, but I have never seen the impact before. Actually, I did hit a squirrel once, and another time a bird flew into my windshield, and driving through my neighborhood a couple years ago the car in front of me ran over a squirrel [which was awful to see, it was picked up by the tire and flung into the air, and after it hit the pavement it started trying to crawl away until it died, and I can still remember it in awful detail years later]. Seeing the fawn really shook me up.

Accidents like these are one of the many reasons that hunting is important. Keeping deer populations down helps keep them from starving and other awful ends. But we live in a state not originally inhabited by deer [due to extensive forests], and deer have migrated north alongside our development. Their habitats disappear to agriculture and subdivisions, and we've removed their natural predators, so these violent deaths are not uncommon.

What three deer were doing at 1:30 in the afternoon on US-23 I will never know. I do know that if I had been there a couple seconds earlier or later, I either could have hit one myself or never known the details of what happened. I know that I am a bit of a softy, easily moved to tears over these kinds of things. I hate scenes in movies that depict mass slaughters of animals [and people too, but at least people have a choice when they go to war], and I am ashamed of us as a species when I read the news every day. Car-deer accidents may be commonplace, but for me the result will never look the same as I drive past a carcass on the highway.

No comments: