Deadly Deer Encounters Traumatize Palm Harbor Drivers
"There's a lot of blood on the road. You drive on the road and you see all the blood and it doesn't speak well for our community," said Barb Walker, a Palm Harbor resident and mother of two children.
A rash of deadly deer encounters on East Lake Road has local activists calling for change.
Despite the recent addition of "Deer Crossing" signs in the area, deer and vehicles are still colliding at a pace that has some residents worried about safety. Evidence of the deadly encounters is often visible on the busy road.
"There's a lot of blood on the road. You drive on the road and you see all the blood and it doesn't speak well for our community," said Barb Walker, an East Lake resident and mother of two children.
Walker is also a volunteer with the Audubon Society andblogs on Patch. In addition to helping rescue injured birds in the area, she keeps an informal count of deer that are killed on the road. According to her tally, six deer were hit and killed in the East Lake area the past week.
It's a situation that's difficult for everyone, from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Deputies who call trappers to shoot and kill the suffering deer -or in some instances shoot the animals themselves- to the drivers who hit the deer.
Walker says her husband was once two hours late to work because he stopped to help someone who hit a deer. He wound up staying to console the person, who was very upset.
"People who hit deer, they're victims too. It's traumatic," she said.
Why the Recent Increase?
Deer are often hit this time of year, because they're more active during their breeding season which is from October through January.
Pinellas County Sheriff's Deputies responded to two accidents on East Lake Rd. last week involving deer. Two deer were hit Dec. 14 by a car near Sandy Point Rd., which is just north of John Chesnut Sr. Park, where many deer feed. Both injured deer were shot and killed by a trapper. Another deer was hit Dec. 16 near Boot Ranch Rd. That deer was also euthanized by a trapper.
The Florida Highway Patrol responded to two recent accidents involving deer on East Lake Rd. One crash was around 1 a.m. on Oct. 31 near Boot Ranch Rd. A deer ran across the road and into the path of a Hyundai Elantra, causing an estimated $4,000 damage.
The most recent crash was around 6:30 a.m. Dec. 11 near the intersection of Tarpon Woods Blvd. A deer ran into the path of a Ford Mustang, causing an estimated $2,000 damage to the car. In both crashes the deer were killed.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Spokesperson Gary Morse says the deadly encounters are a result of "habitat fragmentation", a term used to describe situations when wildlife's habitat is divided by something like a road, a river or homes. He says the situation threatens wildlife who must still try to reproduce and find food, despite obstacles like East Lake Rd.
Morse says Florida Fish and Wildlife Officers have had to shoot injured deer who've been hit by cars to end the deers' suffering. He says deer are very hard to rehabilitate after they've been injured. They often die from stress.
Vernon Yates, who operates Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Seminole agrees. He rehabilitates deer that are not too badly injured. Yates says deputies often call him after a deer has been hit.
"We take in a lot of deer," he said.
If rehabilitating a deer is not possible and the deer are euthanized, Yates uses them as meat for the tigers and other big cats that he has at his rescue facility.
Finding a solution to the dangerous deer encounters is difficult, according to Morse. Fencing would just aggravate habitat fragmentation. Dropping birth control pellets to try to control the deer population interferes with natural order. He says hunting in certain areas has helped keep the deer population down, but this might not be realistic in a suburban area that's home to more than 30,000 people.
Barb Walker thinks in order to solve the problem, leaders must get advice from multiple experts who have experience dealing with this type of situation.
"I don't think there's any single solution," she said.
"We need to use our brains before our brawn," she added, referring to the deer shootings.
"We need a better procedure in place and we need some public education."
Council of North County Neighborhoods (CNCN) President Don Ewing says East Lake's deer problems are on his organization's radar.
"It's going to be one of the top priorities for 2013," he said.
The issue will be discussed at CNCN's meeting on January 21. The meeting location has not been determined. As soon as it is announced, we will pass that information along.
- East Lake Adds More 'Deer Crossing' Signs to Local Roads
- Library Considering Deer-Resistant Landscaping
- Deer Eating Your Landscaping? Here's Advice To Stop Them
- Orphaned Baby Deer Makes Friends with Squirrel
- Vernon Yates and Tampa Bay's Mystery Monkey
Blogs by Barb Walker-
- Traffic Jam on East Lake Rd. Caused by Deer Accident
- Homeless Cats Discovered Under Cell Tower
- Palm Harbor Can Be a Dangerous Habitat for Barred Owls
- Update: Pinellas Eagle Watch Season 2011-2012
- Injured Osprey Update
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