October and November are supposed to be the worst months for certain types of collisions, but the entire animal kingdom as of late has collectively made it their mission to impact, and I do mean impact, my personal space. It all began about a month ago when I was driving home during the wee hours of the morning after working a late shift. Just blocks from my house, a herd of deer, possibly jacked up from snorting aspen fungus, had in their mildewed state of mind decided to play a game of chicken with whatever rounded the next bend of my neighborhood road. Bam!
As the dust settled, my rearview mirror revealed a motionless deer surrounded by her mournful peers. Being the compassionate medic I am, I quickly exited the vehicle to assess the injuries to my truck. I began to walk toward the actual car-cass hoping I wouldn’t have to put the poor thing out of its misery. Surprisingly, the herd didn’t disperse. They weren’t about to abandon their fellow fallen fawn. Caught off guard, I froze like a deer in headlights (sorry) while they all stood their ground and stared at me. And it wasn’t a frightened, fixated gaze, either. Eerily, their eyes glowed with a vivid, fiery red pigment—no doubt from the reflection coming off the rear lights of my truck. At least that’s what I hoped as I slowly backed off, trauma shears and pen light at the ready.
Then, less than a week later, a huge buck was struck by an SUV in front of my son’s car, which was traveling in the same direction. Unable to avoid this mammoth creature, my son’s compact vehicle received significant damage to the under carriage. Thankfully, no one was injured. But even as I chauffeured my son home, I experienced a near miss from a deer darting across that same mountainous highway.
Two days later, an al-Qaida squirrel darted in front of my mountain bike on a narrow portion of the trail, leaving me little option but to persevere. So I left a thud thud in my wake. A day later, a crow smashed into the still-fur-laden grill of my truck as I was driving it to get an estimate for repairs.
It was now clear to me that Dr. Doolittle had put a contract out on me. I was a paranoiac driven to the point of thinking my golden retrievers were giving insider information as to my whereabouts, which is why they now wear bark collars.
Every day, more than one million vertebrates are run over somewhere on the 4.5 million miles of roadways in this country. Sadly, pedestrians contribute more than 5,000 deaths and 64,000 injuries each year.
I’m not going to focus on car vs. humanoids. I would, however, like to address those animals of misfortune that had no intention of becoming suicidal roadkill but were simply trying to cross the road of their once bisected-free habitat. It’s through such understanding that people can respond harmoniously to these creatures by driving cautiously while traversing through these sacred animal sovereignties. More importantly, it may nullify the contract that’s now out on my buttocks by animal assassins.
Like most of you medics out there, a majority of car vs. animal collisions I respond to involve deer. I read that every year, 350,000 deer fatally collide with motor vehicles, resulting in 200 human deaths annually. This is a favorable statistic for humans, unless you replace that deer with 1,600 lb., 9' tall moose in New England.
We may not have many moose in Colorado, but we do have cattle. I recall an accident in which the driver struck a cow during the middle of the night on a rural road. The patient had a probable loss of consciousness and didn’t recall what had caused the accident, despite the mortally wounded cow lying just outside her driver-side door.
The paramedics were in the process of holding manual C-spine traction when during the extraction process, the suddenly lucid patient overheard two voices outside her car exclaim, “Yeah it looks like she’s not going to make it. (Dramatic pause). We’re going to have to shoot the b*tch.” I guess that explains the patient’s sudden bladder incontinence. Timing is everything.
Seriously though, at times I’ve found myself more empathetic and stressed out by animals being injured on accident scenes than those of my own species—especially when pets are involved. High on my personal list of post-traumatic stress calls is an MVC in which two horses had to be put down when the trailer they were being transported in was struck by a drunken driver. I was too embarrassed to admit it, but a little stress debriefing wouldn’t have hurt.
Until next time, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife during those rural calls, lest your ambulance becomes a bambilance. JEMS
This article originally appeared in September 2011 JEMS as “Animal Automosity.”
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