It was a pleasant, dark November evening as I was cautiously weaving my way along a Gladstone back road.
As I turned a bend, there they were, less than 25 feet in front of me – three large deer crossing the road. I instinctively slammed on the brakes, causing one antlered buck to stop and stare at my high beams before he ran off to join his brethren beyond the thick roadside foliage.
That experience last year came to mind following a report from State Farm Insurance that Pennsylvania leads the nation with 119,500 deer-vehicle collisions at a cost of more than $400 million in damages. Michigan ranks second and Missouri 20th.
Last year 1,352 people nationwide were injured, along with 14 fatalities.
In a recent press release, Col. Ron Replogle, superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, notes that in 2012 Missouri had 3,980 Missouri deer-vehicle strikes – one every 2.2 hours. Five people were killed and 411 injured. In 2011, four people lost their lives in deer-vehicle collisions.
Replogle warns drivers that deer are more active from October through December between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. and that last year 25.5 percent of traffic crashes happened in urban areas.
Joe Jerek, a spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Conservation, estimates the state has 1.4 million deer. They are currently active because they are mating. Jerek says deer numbers will decrease as a result of 512,000 licensed hunters harvesting nearly 300,000 deer this fall. Hunters in Jackson County harvested 1,880 deer last year.
Sgt. Collin M. Stosberg, the public information and education officer with the Highway Patrol’s Troop A headquarters in Lee’s Summit, reminds drivers that deer often travel in groups and when you see a deer, slow down and proceed with caution.
Lonnie Hansen with the Missouri Department of Conservation writes that, “In 1925 there were only around 400 deer left in the entire state and extinction of the whitetail was eminent. That has all changed for the whitetail is so popular is was designated the Missouri state mammal.”
“Not so,” say our Missouri mules.
I give you President John Adams’ toast: Independence forever.
Jerry Plantz lives in Lee’s Summit. His website is at www.Jerryplantz.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.