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Deer

Deer in headlights. Metro photo

As it gets darker earlier, now is the right time to take extra precautions on roadways.

Residents in our coverage areas know the dangers that deer present at this time of year. In the frenzy of mating season, these animals can dart out into the road at any time. These are erratic, unpredictable maneuvers that can bring serious bodily harm to drivers — and deer.

Nowadays, drivers encounter several hazards at night. Heedless pedestrians are often found walking in the evening hours, sometimes wearing dark colors and without flashlights or reflective gear which would make them easier to spot. Drivers should be on close guard for these nightwalkers.

To help alleviate this hazard, it’s wise for people walking along our roadways to wear brighter colors, take a flashlight, or put on some form of reflective material over jackets or shirts.

Unfortunately, pedestrians don’t always keep these tips in mind, so drivers must be vigilant about what’s happening on the road ahead. Extra attention should be paid as it gets darker, especially on streets that are lit dimly or not at all.

While driving through residential areas, slow down. Students may be coming home on the late buses, and people can be standing on the street putting garbage out or collecting mail.

Second, Mother Nature can be tricky during autumn. Fallen leaves, especially when wet, can cause dangerous roadway conditions, impeding one’s ability to brake safely. If a driver finds the tires are slipping on leaves, the best thing to do is refrain from swerving suddenly and to brake slowly. The same advice applies when finding a deer or pedestrian near the road.

Last but not least, keep in mind, even though we all gain an extra hour of sleep, when we change the clocks back, some people have difficulty adapting and can feel drowsy. And with the holidays around the corner, some people will be busier and less rested than usual. Experts advise that when a person is feeling sleepy behind the wheel — yawning, having trouble keeping their eyes open, missing traffic signals — the best practice is pulling over and resting before resuming driving. 

Resting is always better than drinking coffee, opening a window, turning on air conditioning or playing loud music to stay wide eyed as these measures only add a short burst of alertness.

If a driver sees a swerving vehicle, the best thing to do is to keep as far away from the other car as possible. 

Preliminary statistics from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research at the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College show just how dangerous driving while drowsy can be. According to its research, in New York state, “fatigue/drowsy driving” and/or “driver fell asleep” appeared “4,865 times as contributing factors on police crash reports.”

The roads can be tricky this time of year, but common sense can go a long way in keeping ourselves and our fellow residents safe.

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File photo

Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a motorcyclist in Port Jefferson Village on Nov. 2.

Jeffrey Smith was riding a 2019 Harley Davidson Trike on East Broadway, near Bridle Path, when he struck a deer crossing the roadway at approximately 11:25 a.m. Smith was knocked off his motorcycle and struck his head onto the pavement. The three-wheel motorcycle continued to travel unoccupied for approximately 1⁄4 mile until it drove off the roadway, striking several bushes before stopping in the side yard of 101 Hoyt Lane.

Smith, 77, of Smithtown, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital in serious condition. The deer was gone upon police arrival.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the Sixth Squad at 631-852-8652.

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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