Tell us your stories
Behind the statistics of a rising trend of wildlife vehicle collisions (WVC’s) in North America are thousands of stories of direct experience from drivers and their passengers. Few wonder where the expression: “Frozen like a deer in the headlights” comes from or what it means, because almost all of us have had an encounter with wildlife on the road. Yet, each person’s experience is unique, often vivid with trauma and loss but, as often, filled with awareness and insight. ARC invites you to share your experience of a WVC with us. While we cannot post every story on the site, we would be grateful to have the opportunity to consider sharing yours with other visitors to our website. We will be in contact should we wish to post your story!
Monique DiGiorgio, Bozeman, Montana "Deer-Car-Collision Course at Seventy-Five Miles Per Hour" It came as an unpleasant surprise to me that when air bags deploy, there is so much smoke and chemical off gassing that you become blinded and trapped in your car choking. I learned firsthand of this fact driving between Helena and Bozeman last fall on Interstate 90, where the speed limit is 75. I was driving the speed limit on my way home from WELC’s Helena office when two deer jumped out of the median into the left hand lane. It was dusk, and given my line of work as a road ecologist, I am usually hyper aware of watching for wildlife and slowing down to increase my reaction time in case the worst occurs. But, I was doing neither of these things - I mean, who hits wildlife on an interstate going 75 miles per hour? I did and it has changed how I view the safety concerns of wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) forever. Ironically, I have spent the last ten years of my life raising awareness about the safety and wildlife concerns of WVCs. But, other than a squirrel or two, I had never hit a deer, elk, moose, or other unfortunate creature. I prided myself on this fact, thinking it was the diligence with which I usually scan the side of the road spotting any sign of movement. But, on that fateful afternoon, as the sun was setting and visibility was poor, the impact of the two deer on the front of my vehicle was practically instantaneous. I saw them, screamed, put my foot on the brake and before I even had a chance to set the brakes in motion –my car came to a screeching halt as the air bags deployed. Because I could not see, or breathe, I had no idea whether I was, possibly in a ditch on the side of the road, or in the median, or in the middle of the interstate. I opened my door and made a run for it. As it turned out, I was indeed wrecked in between both lanes at an angle. I ran to the side of the road, shaking and barely functioning. Luckily I-90 is a far cry from interstates like I-70 near Denver where cars are trailing you ever second or so for miles. There were only a few cars behind me, one of which stopped to help me, and the other moved the deer off the road. When the tow truck driver arrived, his first comment was “Yep, this is where I pick up people all the time that hit wildlife – the river is right behind you”. I was horrified at the fact that this particular spot was a known wildlife crossing, and yet as a society we appear to be doing nothing about it. I handed my keys to the tow truck driver and told him to keep them. The car had been totaled. And my recently healed back pain started up again. While I would hope that not many other people would have to go through what I went through that night, it is not the case. The sheer number of people that have either hit an animal or nearly hit one is astounding, evidenced by the number of stories I hear when I tell people that I help wildlife cross the road for a living. So, in honor of the U.S. Congress having recently passed a transportation bill that aims to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, please share your story on this blog to raise awareness of this issue and thank our decision makers for making safe crossings for people and wildlife on our nation’s roads a top priority."
Eliza Murphy, Willamette Valley, Oregon "Today on my 19 mile bike ride on a rural road, I removed the remains of thirteen snakes, two birds, & one salamander. A wild turkey lay in a heap in dried grass. Everywhere: bones, the smear of flesh, blood stains. Turkey vultures wobbled overhead."
Brenda D. Lemus, Franklinton, North Carolina "One day, while driving on the secondary road that runs in front of my house, an unexpected squirrel ran right in front of me giving me no time to stop. I hit her. Horrified, I went back to see if she was dead or injured so that I could help her, but, I couldn't find anything. I felt very, very bad about this, especially because I wasn't able to do anything for the squirrel. Weeks later, I saw a squirrel exactly in the same area. It was a squirrel with a crooked tail, which looked obviously broken and healed. Could it be my kamikaze squirrel of 2 weeks before? I really hope it was . . ."
Larry Nytz, Bismarck, North Dakota "Early spring 2013, a doe was hit and killed by a car, left on the side of the road. This doe had twin yearlings that stayed with the dead doe for 3-4 days. They would not leave her side and were potential victims. On the forth day the body was removed and the yearlings were left with the challenge to survive without the guidance of their mother. The saddest thing I ever witnessed from roadkill."
Brent Cole, Newfoundland, Canada "On October 8, 2006, at approximately 7 PM on the TransCanada Highway near Gander, Newfoundland, I collided with an 18 point bull Moose/1000 pounds in weight. I was driving a Chevrolet Impala. The moose landed on the roof of my vehicle resulting in a burst fracture of my C-6 vertebrae. I am now a quadriplegic paralyzed from the shoulders down. Prior to my accident, I was a 15 year Wildlife Conservation Officer. What irony! I tell my story in a book I wrote, "Into the Mist: A New Dawn, a New Day." I make recommendations in my book to make the road safer. It's a story everyone should know."
Iris Binor, Madison Wisconsin "On June 22nd 2016, a courageous and heroic woman parked her car on the side of a major highway in Madison, WI, to help a mother duck and her ducklings cross the road. She lost her life that day - hit by a driver who did not see her. In her honor - and only with the blessing of family and friends - the community, city, and state is so taken with her act of courage that many of us - who never even met Kimberly, want a wildlife crossing bridge to be built right in the area she was hit: on Highway 30 between Interstate 90/94 and Highway 51. Help us make this dream a reality. http://www.wkow.com/story/32295599/2016/06/23/madison-police-issue-safety-warning-to-motorists-mcfarland-mom-killed-helping-ducklings-cross-highway-30"
Margaret Wheeler, Whitewater, WI "I have tried to always rescue any injured animal I see. I spent over $80 in a taxi in Seattle (I didn't have a car) trying to transport an injured bird that had flown into a building to a wildlife rehab center. I pull over to make sure an animal is not suffering if it's unclear whether it's dead, and help those who suffer. But the other day a rabbit ran under my tire-- I never saw it in front of me but I assume that's what happened. It stared into my eyes and I petted its head as it died. I am so devastated. I want to help..."
Kylie Paul, Glacier National Park, Montana "My work has involved 'road ecology' for years, researching and now educating folks about options to reduce wildlife collisions (with People's Way Partnership in Montana). So I keep an eye out for wildlife. Well, my friend was driving through Glacier National Park, with me in the car. We saw a Park warden ahead of us with a car pulled over, so we slowed down. Good thing, because - in a flash - a young black bear rushed across the road, and we hit it. It tumbled and kept running...hopefully it survived. Turns out the warden was pulling folks over to slow them down...to prevent hitting wildlife. It happens to all of us...we need more tools to reduce the inevitable!"
Jackie Corday, Missoula, Montana "About 10 years ago the main highway that I commuted on to work expanded from 2 lanes to 4-5 lanes. Soon thereafter, I watched 2 collisions with deer happen - in each case the deer made it across 3 lanes and then got smashed in the 4th lane. The two extra lanes significantly decreased the deer's chances of crossing safely. It was very heartbreaking to witness those deaths and very stressful knowing that I could go slower and pay attention in order to avoid hitting wildlife, but the vast majority of drivers do not. I ended up moving into town to avoid commuting - I now ride my bike 1 mile to work and am much happier."
Laura Drotar, Colorado "I hit a bear August 18th at exactly 4:25 pm in Oregon. It has devastated me. I’m looking for an organization (non-profit or whatnot) that I may begin to donate to, specifically in regard to raising funds to build more wildlife passages. Do you know of any organizations like this, or might you be one?"
Frosty Marriott, Carbondale, Colorado "Over the last couple of years, I don’t know how many people who I have talked to who have said, 'Well, I hit an elk last year and totaled my car'. There have been some tragic accidents from people being involved in wildlife collisions. You can’t put a value on a person’s life. We had a state trooper with two young children that hit a herd of deer a couple of years ago. It was just a tragic circumstance where he lost his life. If you pay attention to these people who get killed, read their stories, they are all tragedies that could have been prevented."