I was driving down the highway the other day when a deer presented himself in front of me. I quickly braked as he ran in front of my Jeep. I thought we were clear, but I managed to catch his back hooves on my right front bumper. The result was a deer doing a 180-degree spin before bounding away into the woods. I was greatly relieved.
I pulled over to the side to see if the hooves caused any damage to the front of my Jeep. The best I could tell, there was only a scratch. The car that had been behind me also pulled over and the driver came over to me to look for any damage as well.
OTHER DRIVER: That was a close one!
ME: I know! He just barely cleared the front of my Jeep!
OTHER DRIVER: Not just that, I nearly rear-ended you when you stopped!
OTHER DRIVER: We’re good. At least nobody was hurt.
I jumped back into my Jeep and thought about what had just happened. Growing up in Wisconsin, I knew a lot of people who had hit deer. The damage was almost always significant. I also knew that I was lucky to have never hit a deer in Wisconsin, especially when I lived in Northern Wisconsin where it seemed like everybody but me had hit at least one deer in their lifetime. I had to wait until I left the state to do so.
Before this day, the only animal I had ever hit was a muskrat. I felt awful about that. I felt so awful about it that I picked up the dead and very smelly muskrat, put it in the back of my truck, and then buried it when I got to where I was going. It didn’t deserve to die like that.
I know as we encroach more and more into wilderness areas, we’re going to be hitting a lot more animals. We can be as careful as we want, but it’s always when we let our guard down that these things happen. The city isn’t always safe for animals either. I’ve seen dead possums, raccoons, cats, dogs, and squirrels. Let’s talk about the squirrels…
I think the squirrels have a thing where they play chicken with cars. I can’t count how many times I’ve suddenly had a squirrel run out in front of my vehicle and I’ll swear I had to have hit them, but a glance in the rear-view mirror or if I pull over shows nothing there. Somehow, they always avoid my tires. This is why I’m getting suspicious about the squirrels… I think they’re dared to do it by other squirrels.
1ST SQUIRREL: Here comes a Jeep, I dare you to go!
2ND SQUIRREL: Ok, here goes!
Then the squirrel will run out at the last second (this ensures you won’t have time to brake) and they race to the middle of your front bumper and sit there until you drive right over them. Then they run back laughing with their little friends. Of course, if you swerve, it sometimes doesn’t work out the way you or the squirrel intended.
1ST SQUIRREL: Well, he almost made it. Let’s go find where he hid his nuts!
Stupid delinquent squirrels! I’ll bet they’re teenage squirrels all hopped up on over-ripe berries or something.
Possible moral of this story? Don’t brake for squirrels. They’ve already got it figured out.