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Deer

Photo by Tom Caruso

A FLYING LEAP

Tom Caruso captured this fleeting moment on a recent trip to Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in his hometown of Smithtown. He writes, ‘It was a beautiful day. I wandered around the park and saw several deer grazing in an open field. I circled around the field to get a better look when a herd of deer came crashing out of the woods to my right and bounded across the field. I caught this deer in full flight and it was quite a sight.’

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Pixabay photo

As the days get shorter and the sun sets sooner, car crashes are more common. According to the American Automobile Association, after the clocks are turned back to standard time in the fall, more incidents happen between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

AAA recently reported that in 2020 there were 33,956 animal-related crashes in the state. Suffolk County, with 1,310 animal-related incidents, was the second highest in the state, tying with Monroe and behind Orange County. After the sun sets, residents are aware that animals can dart across the street, especially deer. Their sudden appearance on roadways in the fall is a regular occurrence as it’s rutting season for the creatures. It’s the time that they mate, and they have matters on their mind other than safety. 

While the last thing any driver wants to do is hit an animal, there are other dangers to look out for after dark. Pedestrians can still be walking in the evening hours. Many people wear dark colors and are hard to spot. The problem is compounded when they aren’t carrying flashlights that would draw attention to them.

While pedestrians can take care to wear the appropriate clothing and take a flashlight or wear some type of reflective material on jackets or shirts, experts advise drivers to pay extra attention, especially on streets that are lit dimly or not at all.

In areas where deer signs are posted or while traveling in busy areas where people may be walking, it’s best to drive slowly, of course, and keep more distance than usual between your car and the one in front of you. The same advice can come in handy when leaves are wet and can cause dangerous road conditions that make it difficult to stop. If a driver finds  a deer or a pedestrian close by, or tires slipping on leaves, the best thing is not to swerve suddenly and to brake slowly.

One last note, drivers need to make sure they stay centered in the lane. Many tend to gravitate more to the side when headlights go on; however, this can place vehicles even closer to pedestrians and animals. To make sure your car is centered in the lane, try to draw an imaginary line that goes from the asphalt to the sky. Look at the level of the horizon to stay on course if you feel you are gravitating to one side.

Driving at night can be a little tricky, but with extra care we can keep ourselves and our neighbors safe. 

Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Talk about mixed emotions. That’s what we feel when we are driving along and suddenly see a deer running out from among the trees. They are beautiful and graceful animals, and we stop the car and point them out to our small children in the back seat, who are thrilled at the sighting, perhaps recalling Bambi. But there is a lot more to the deer story here in suburbia. 

Long Island is home to more than 20,000 white-tailed deer, and that number has been exploding because there haven’t been many threats — until now. As long as they could find enough food and survive particularly harsh winters, the occasional highway collision and the short hunting season, they were largely untroubled. 

However, they have been a nuisance to residents because they devour flowers and vegetable gardens. And while they can be the innocent carriers of an infected tick, whose bite causes the miserable Lyme disease, they are gentle enough souls who leap out of sight as humans approach.

Now it turns out that they may be a more serious problem to us. A new study in Iowa found that the deer seem to be contracting the coronavirus from humans and spreading it to one another. This means the deer could become a reservoir for deadly mutations of the virus that could then possibly be passed back to humans. In that event, another vaccine would have to be developed to target the new variant in much the same way as flu shots are modified from year to year. 

Researchers were astonished at how widespread the infection was among the deer population there, estimated at 80%. Deer hunters and others who handle deer (as road kill) are being urged to take precautions to avoid transmission, like wearing rubber gloves and a mask.

Researchers don’t know exactly how the deer get infected by humans, but they suggest it might occur when people in Iowa feed deer in their backyards, or through sewage discharges or anything partially chewed by an infected human, like a “splotch of chewing tobacco” that then might be licked by a deer. 

The study of the deer was led by veterinary microbiologists from Penn State, according to an article in The New York Times on November 9, and they were able to make their analysis by examining the lymph nodes of dead deer. But they have not yet been able to determine whether the animals were sickened by the pathogen. They also are going to examine other wild animals, especially mice, that live in close proximity to humans, to see if they too might carry the virus. 

There is well established research that shows some pathogens do move back and forth between animals and humans, including those that cause yellow fever and West Nile. And we do know our dogs and cats can get COVID-19.

Also in the news is something called epizootic hemorrhagic disease, transmitted by the EHD virus that can kill deer within 36 hours of infection. This often-fatal disease is transmitted by biting midges. We call them “no-see-ums.” Deer do not catch it from each other, nor can humans be infected by either deer or midges. But stricken deer bleed to death, especially in late summer and early fall when midges are abundant.

While there is no treatment for EHD, the first frost kills the midges, ending the outbreak. The virus was first confirmed in New York in 2007 with small outbreaks in the state’s northern counties, according to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. By 2020, the affected deer were found in the lower Hudson Valley, in other states along the eastern United States, and also in zoos.

“The dead deer do not serve as a source of infection for other animals because the virus is not long lived in dead animals,” according to the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab. Suffolk County has 139 cases reported and 8 confirmed as of last week.

Photo by Michael Perlotto

A STATUESQUE SIGHT

Michael Perlotto of Stony Brook snapped this incredible photo in mid-March. He writes, ‘I was walking at dusk on Trustees Road [at West Meadow Beach]. I rounded the corner and came upon this amazing scene.  I was the only one within eyesight … you could hear a pin drop as the deer stood off on the horizon.  I quickly took this picture with my iPhone as the deer stood perfectly still like statues!’

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Photo by Tom Caruso

AUTUMN FAWN

Tom Caruso snapped this photo of a young whitetail deer in a meadow at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in his hometown of Smithtown on Dec. 6. He writes, ‘I followed a small herd of deer for a while and was amazed by how comfortable they were with my presence. I snapped this picture of the smallest deer as it took a break from grazing to check me out. It was a great experience getting so close to them.’

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Drivers need to proceed with caution when they spot deer on the side of roadway. File photo by Phil Schiavone

Deer grazing near roadways may look innocent but they can pose a possible hazard — even a deadly one — for drivers.

As fall arrives, the animals’ presence becomes an even greater danger. A higher percentage of deer are now more likely to dart out into the road as they are in the midst of their rutting season, which runs from October through December. Driving during dusk and dawn exacerbates the problem with reduced visibility.

According to a press release from AAA Northeast, there were 36,445 animal crashes in New York State in 2019, and the number of crashes has increased over the past five years. Suffolk County was found to have the third highest amount of animal crashes with 1,415. In 2019, Brookhaven had 423 animal crashes while Smithtown had 120.

The data was taken from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, an affiliate with the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs, which does not cite which animals were involved in the crash. However AAA Northeast said in its press release that “data from New York and other states previous years found deer were involved in 88 to 98 percent of crashes.”

“Striking a deer can be extremely dangerous, with the animal possibly going through the windshield, seriously injuring or killing the driver and passengers,” said Robert Sinclair Jr., spokesman for AAA Northeast.

AAA Northeast recommends drivers brake gently and avoid swerving when encountering any animals.

“Going to the right could send the vehicle into a ditch, tree or light pole,” the AAA Northeast press release said. “Swerving to the left could result in a lethal head-on crash. Even hitting the brakes hard could send the front end of the vehicle into a nosedive, promoting the animal rolling up the hood and through the windshield.”

Other tips from AAA and insurance companies include:

● Be extra cautious when you see a deer-crossing sign along a roadway. The sign means that there have been deer-vehicle collisions near the sign location.

● Decrease speed when you approach deer near roadsides as they can bolt out or change direction quickly. If you see a deer, look for others as they are herd animals and usually travel in groups. Especially during rutting season when a buck may be chasing a doe.

● Move your vehicle to a safe place if you hit an animal. If possible, pull over to the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights. If you must leave your vehicle, stay off the road and out of the way of any oncoming vehicles.

● Call the police. Alert authorities if the animal is blocking traffic and creating a threat for other drivers. If the collision results in injury, death or more than $1,000 in property damage, you must fill out an official crash report and send it to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

● Look for leaking fluid, loose parts, tire damage, broken lights, a hood that won’t latch and other safety hazards. If your vehicle seems unsafe in any way, call for a tow truck.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recommends not getting out of your car and approaching an injured animal as they can strike out with their legs or hooves. In Brookhaven, residents can call the Animal Shelter at 631-451-6950 to report deceased deer on the road or curbside. Town employees cannot remove animals found on front lawns, backyards or on driveways.

Joe Glenn, Avalon Park & Preserve, Photo of the Week, deer

PICTURE PERFECT

Joe Glenn was lucky enough to spot this beautiful deer while visiting Avalon Park & Preserve in his hometown of Stony Brook. While the park remains open to visitors, the entrance at the Stony Brook Grist Mill is now temporarily closed for renovations.

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