2017-10-19 / Viewpoint

The VIEW from here

Watch for deer, and elk?

Jeff Hogan—Editor Jeff Hogan—Editor Of Michigan’s 83 counties, Lapeer County in 2016 recorded 1,308 vehicle-deer collisions — the third highest count statewide trailing Kent and Oakland counties. The number in Lapeer County is actually much higher, as the published number reflects only those accidents that resulted in an insurance claim being filed. Many more go unreported.

While writing last Sunday’s editorial published in The County Press (sister paper to the Lapeer Area View) I was reminded once again how fortunate I am that I have never (yet) struck a deer. Nearly every adult driver I know has a story, or two, of their encounter with a deer.

While I haven’t been involved in a vehicle-deer accident, I’ve come close. Many near misses, not only with deer — but with elk and black bears.

For nearly 10 years I lived and worked in Gaylord. While there I had several encounters with elk, which as a city boy looked like gigantic deer on steroids. They’re huge, slow and really not that smart.

One fall afternoon I was driving up Old 27 between Gaylord and Vanderbilt headed to a large working fire on an oil platform in the Pigeon River Country State Forest when suddenly around a bend was a bull elk standing in the middle of the road. I screeched to a stop only 20 feet from the animal. It looked at me and slowly walked off.

Another evening I was at my desk at the Gaylord Herald Times when the Otsego County Central Dispatch reported an elk-car accident on I-75 near Vanderbilt. It happened on occasion, so it didn’t necessarily rouse much attention. But the comments by the first Michigan State Police trooper to arrive on scene did. “You guys have got to see this one,” he commented, followed by chatter from another three officers who said “they’re on their way.” And so was I.

A young man driving a small Ford Escort struck a mature elk that went up onto the roof and over the car. The front of the car looked like it was involved in a head-on collision, while the elk’s huge antlers pierced the roof and side window like an old-fashioned can opener. The roof was collapsed so bad they had to call for the Jaws of Life from the local fire department to free the driver, who was in a state of shock but otherwise uninjured.

So while we have to be on extra alert for deer this time of year in Lapeer County, in other parts of the state drivers must also be mindful of elk, bear and moose — fairly common to eastern and central Upper Peninsula where I also worked and lived for a short while.

True story. In far northern Mackinac County I rolled onto a scene where a teenage driver swerved to avoid a moose, went off the road into the woods where he struck and killed a 10-point buck. Again, the bizarre incident brought out emergency first responders for a look who thought they’d seen everything.

As the vehicle-deer accident statistics indicate the frequency of accidents is greatest to mid and southern Michigan where the deer are as well as more traffic owing to the greater population in Lower Michigan. In the time it took me to write this column Tuesday morning our Central Dispatch reported two vehicle-deer collisions. Yikes!

Be careful until we meet again.

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