Q One item that didn't get much attention in the shooting death of CHP Officer Kenyon Youngstrom on Interstate 680 earlier this month involved why he had stopped on the freeway. He was removing a dead deer. Bay Area drivers need to know that this time of year deer not only pose a risk on roads like highways 9 and 35, Foothill Boulevard in the East Bay and Highway 4, etc., but on major freeways like Interstate 680 and of course I-280.
A Yes, they do. We are now entering the deer mating season, when deer crashes more than triple in the Bay Area from fewer than two a day to six a day. Here are tips offered by safety officials:
Caltrans, UC Davis and the California Department of Fish and Game are studying deer-vehicle collisions on I-280 around Woodside. They've fitted 30 deer with radio collars to track their movements and better understand how to keep deer from crossing the highway. Results should be available a year from now.
Q I have a weird sort of question that has been on my mind for a long time. Do police or CHP officers ever put large animals out of their misery when they come across them? For instance, if they come by an accident scene where a deer was hit and is obviously in a lot of pain with no practical hope of recovery, would they ever be able to shoot the poor thing to end its suffering?
A Yes. CHP officers can put an animal down that has been injured. It doesn't happen frequently, as most of the time the animal is dead from the collision or hides in the brush after being hit. If an injured animal is encountered, officers first try to have animal control or rescue respond to help the animal or put it down humanely. If animal control is unavailable, an officer can get permission from a supervisor to use a firearm to end the animal's suffering. This is done as a last resort when all other options are exhausted if it can be done safely.
Q A few weeks ago I saw one of the saddest sights ever. A full-grown doe hadn't quite cleared the new, taller median on Big Moody Curve on Highway 17. Both her back legs were broken, yet she continued to pull herself across the southbound lanes to get to some trees to die.
Fortunately no cars were involved and traffic was light. People did stop, but no one could have helped her. The median will save human lives, but not so much for wild animals.
I've been traveling 17 for over a half century and there have been many dead deer, but nothing like what I saw that Saturday morning. I'm never going to forget that. The animal's dignity was so impressive.
A Please, please do not stop to aid a deer or another injured animal. You could be putting yourself and others in danger.
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