Animals on the move can lead to dangerous situations

PHOTO PROVIDED A black capped chickadee fights his image in mirror.

For the past few weeks, Mary Alice and I have been traveling on both major highways and back roads to visit our children and their families. Even during the daylight hours, we have had deer run across the roadway in front of us. Now that we have changed back to standard time, more vehicles will be on the road during the hours when deer are most active.

This increase in deer activity leads up to their fall breeding season, which is commonly referred to as the rut. Also, at this time of year, many yearling bucks disperse from the areas where they were born and travel up to several dozen miles to find new ranges

During my career as a wildlife officer (game warden), I had encountered many animals that were either killed on the road or so entangled in pitfalls that they could not free themselves.

Deer becoming entangled in fences will most likely be at the top of the pitfall list. I once had several calls about a deer which tried to jump over a wrought iron fence with decorative spikes on the railing and, after misjudging the jump, the deer became impaled on a spike and died. Later, I had a call about a young deer which tried to go through the same fence and had its head became caught between the wrought iron posts. Fortunately, this incident was reported in time, and I was able to free the young deer.

Another time I received a call about a deer which had fallen in a stone-lined air shaft of an abandoned mine located deep in the woods. Evidently, the deer got too close to the rim and fell in. Although carrying an extension ladder to the scene was hard, trying to carry a live deer up a ladder was even harder. Eventually, game protectors were issued darts that could be fired from their service revolvers. The darts would have certainly made this deer recovery much easier for me.

I received a call about a deer which was lying on the ground and could not get up. I went to investigate and found the deer lying in a pool of muddy of water, and as I approached the deer began to thrash about. However, the deer was unable to lift its head off the ground. The deer was a buck, with only one antler, and did not appear to have any visible wounds.

Although, I was prepared to shoot the deer, I decided to grab the deer’s antler and pull on it. To my surprise, the deer’s head came up, and another antler, which had been buried in the mud, became visible. The deer jumped up and ran off. When checking the area, I saw where the deer had been in a fight with another buck. During the fight, the deer had been knocked off its feet, with its head pushed so hard to the ground the antler was embedded in the mud. This was the reason why the buck could neither lift its head nor get its legs beneath its body to stand up.

Smaller animals also become road kills and meet up with pitfalls. There was the raccoon which crawled out onto a metal barn roof and somehow had become trapped under the roof. After the first call, I went to investigate and was told that the raccoon had been there for two days and still hadn’t moved. I assured the caller that the raccoon would soon leave on his own. However, I learned several days later that the raccoon was still there. With help, a tree was cut down and leaned against the barn in an effort to raise the metal roof. This worked for when I checked the next day the raccoon was gone.

Through the years, I received many complaints on birds flying into both windows and walls of buildings. Grouse were at the top of this list because for some unknown reason a grouse will go into what is referred to as a crazy flight and fly into windows, walls of buildings, etc. At one time, it was believed that this occurred after the grouse had been eating wild grapes that fermented in its crop, causing the grouse to become tipsy. However, it is now believed that these crazy flights are just the way young birds disperse from their parents and siblings.

Annually, approximately 97 million birds are killed when they fly into windows; four to five million die after flying into communication towers; tens of thousands are killed when they fly into high tension transmission lines; commercial airlines kill 33,000 birds; wind turbines kill 33,000; 72 million birds are killed by poison and hundreds of millions of birds are killed by both feral and tame cats. Many birds are also hit by vehicles but the collisions throw the birds far off the road where they are not noticed.

I even had a turkey that had its head caught in the crotch of a tree and was unable to free itself and eventually died. Another time a crow, which is supposedly our smartest bird, did exactly the same thing.

Probably, the most bizarre event occurred when a great blue heron flew directly into a pair of twisted wires, with such force that its beak became stuck between the wires, and hung there until it died.


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