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What to do if you hit a deer

Nov 04 2012
Deer, such as these on a Saanich lawn in May, are a controversial issue in the region. 

Deer, such as these on a Saanich lawn in May, are a controversial issue in the region.

Photograph by: Bruce Stotesbury , timescolonist.com (June 2012)

Her eyes were wide open and unblinking. All struggles ceased after she fought unsuccessfully to stand up on the badly broken leg and it appeared as if now, lying in the ditch beside Oldfield Road, she knew this was the end.

Another deer hit by a vehicle, another shocked driver and bystanders wondering how to help.

"I really like deer. I have them in my yard," said the driver, who had not yet inspected the dented front of his car.

"I just don't want her to suffer. She must have been bedded down in the field and she came right out in front of me."

But who to call? The answer is either local police or B.C. Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.

But don't expect the deer to be whipped off in an animal ambulance. Unless the animal is on the move, it will be shot.

B.C. SPCA's Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre cannot take adult deer - although they take orphaned fawns - so adults either have to hobble away on their own or be put down, manager Kari Marks said.

"We can't take adult deer. They can't handle captivity. They get hyper-stressed if you try and enclose them, and fling themselves against the wall to get out," she said. "Broken legs are almost impossible to fix. You put a cast on and they just kick it off."

When a deer is hit, it will often go into a state of shock and then its heart gives out, she said.

"For us, that sometimes looks as if the deer is calm."

October and November are the worst months for vehicle-animal collisions because it is darker during commuting hours and often wet. It is also rutting season.

"It's a time when the animals are still really active. They haven't settled down for their winter rest," Marks said. "So just be vigilant and slow down. Almost expect them round the next corner."

When one deer jumps out, look for the next one, as they rarely travel alone, she said.

Wild ARC does take other animals hit by vehicles, which account for about 25 per cent of intakes.

"Cars are the enemy. They are the biggest predator of animals in our urban wildlife," she said.

Owls and hawks, attracted by rodents, are frequent victims, she said.

But a warning to would-be Good Samaritans: If you bring an injured animal, such as a raccoon or squirrel, to the centre, transport it in the trunk because many will defend themselves vigorously.

"We've had to do things like extract squirrels from under dashboards," Marks said.

Drivers are covered for damage to their vehicles through their comprehensive policies, ICBC spokeswoman Tamara McLean said.

"If you have comprehensive insurance, you will be covered," she said. "If you hit an animal, you hit an animal. It doesn't matter if it's a lion or you-name-it."

Although animal crashes are increasing in the Capital Regional District, there is a corresponding increase in all crashes, according to ICBC statistics.

There were 300 animal crashes and 17,310 total crashes in 2007, which increased to 380 animal collisions and 17,830 total collisions in 2011.

On Vancouver Island and throughout B.C., animal crashes have increased slightly, but the number of accidents has decreased. In 2007, there were 1,530 animal crashes among 36,950 accidents on Vancouver Island. In 2011, there were 1,910 animal crashes and 36,110 total collisions.

In B.C. as a whole, there were 9,900 animals crashes among 280,510 accidents in 2007. In 2011, there were 10,050 animal crashes among 258,370 accidents.

An awkward by-product of animal collisions are deer that stagger to nearby properties to die.

Any deer that dies on a private property in the CRD becomes the responsibility of the property owner. Unless it is on a boulevard or roadway, that can mean paying for a private hauler to take it away.

"Technically, it's the homeowner's responsibility and, in an absolutely lawful world, the animal crematorium would come and pick it up - at a price," said Marks, adding that Wild ARC fields numerous calls from homeowners who can't believe there is no method to dispose of a carcass.

Municipal officials quietly advise property owners that if the deer were to magically find its way to the side of the road, the problem would disappear.

But moving a large dead buck that is starting to rot is no easy matter, said one Greater Victoria resident as he considered whether dragging it on a tarpaulin would work. There's also the question of how elderly people or those in fragile health could manage to dispose of the carcasses, he said.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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