Opinion

When Kitsap cars meet Kitsap wildlife

Plenty of dead critters are scooped from the roadways by crews in Kitsap County. Deer, raccoons, possums.

“When it comes to deer, what we call over the radio is ‘Bambi needs a ride,’ ” says Kitsap County Public Works spokesperson Doug Bear. “That’s a little less harsh than ‘road kill.’”

County crews removed 93 deer from roadways in both 2006 and 2007. Last year, Bear reports, that number rose to 131.

Those numbers are in line with a recent study which states deer-vehicle collisions have increased nearly 15 percent in the last five years. The study, released by State Farm Insurance, puts Washington drivers at having a 1/516 chance of colliding with a deer on the roadway. In comparison, West Virginia leads the states in susceptibility to such collisions with a 1/45 ratio.

More than 1 million deer vs. vehicle collisions occur each year in the United States, causing more than 150 fatalities and over $1 billion in property damage, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“They (deer) are frequent road kill, just because the area is so populated with them,” said Duke Stryker, a Kitsap maintenance superintendent for the Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT).

The county, DOT and incorporated city agencies share wildlife and livestock road kill duties throughout Kitsap. Domesticated animals fall to the county’s humane society.

“Nothing like getting called out in the middle of the night to have to remove a deer in the center lane. That makes you fly out of the old bed in a hurry,” Stryker said. “When we get the calls to go address them we try to get on them as soon as we can. We don't like to see them out there any more than someone using our system does.”

From July 2007 to the end of 2008 the DOT spent roughly $75,000 clearing Kitsap roadways of dead animals, he said.

Neither Stryker nor Bear pinpointed any specific hot spots, but Stryker said deer are often attracted to headlights. Same goes for what at first appears to them a clearing amidst forest, but in reality is a thoroughfare. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates Washington’s deer population at 320,000.

If Washington drivers have a 1/516 chance of hitting a deer, Kitsap drivers may have an even higher probability of coming across a raccoon.

Bear said the black-and-white creatures are more common road kill than deer in the area.

In 2008, county crews addressed 181 road kill calls for smaller animals.

When it comes to disposal, county crews take the wildlife to quarries. There, “we allow them to return to nature biologically,” Bear said, “as nature would intend them to.”

The city of Poulsbo does something similar: Though Assistant Public Works Director Dan Wilson recalls only three deer fatalities in his 23 years on the job, those the department has dealt with were taken to isolated property and buried.

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