Over the years I’ve seen more moose than deer on my commute into and out of Waterville Valley.
This summer has been different. I haven’t seen any moose yet, but I have had four or five deer sightings and near misses with my car on Rt. 49.
A couple of weeks ago I witnessed a close call between deer and car that I wish I could have captured on video. I was driving into Waterville Valley at 8 in the morning and was about a half mile from town when I noticed a large deer standing on the west-bound side of Rt. 49. There weren’t any cars behind mine, so I slowed down to a crawl in anticipation of the deer sprinting into the road in front of my car. Another car was rapidly approaching from Waterville, so I flashed my lights repeatedly to alert the driver to slow down and be cautious. I obviously got the driver’s attention because he immediately slowed down, but he was still some distance away from the deer and my car.
It was like a stand-off. Two cars approaching and a deer standing in the gravel beside the road nervously twitching its tail. I slowly drove on past the deer, which thankfully didn’t move.
As I approached and passed the oncoming car, I noticed the driver staring at me with a puzzled look; then, he hit the accelerator and took off. The car had out-of-state plates and I realized that the driver probably had no idea why I’d been flashing my headlights at him.
I slammed on my brakes and watched in my rear view mirror as the other car accelerated at break neck speed away from me and towards the deer. Oh no, I cried out, he’s going to hit the deer. I stuck my head out the window and yelled at the guy to slow down…which I’m sure only served to confirm to the other driver that I was a raving lunatic.
It was like watching a movie in slow motion…a second or two seemed like many minutes as the other car bore down on the deer. And, just as I suspected would happen, the deer leaped into the road just as the car was beside it.
But a crazy thing happened – again, it was like something out of a movie – the deer jumped right over the car! His hoofs dragged across the trunk of the car, but the deer landed on all four legs, took a little hop, skip, and then skittered into the woods – apparently unharmed.
The unsuspecting driver slammed on his brakes and swerved into the other lane just a split second after the deer escaped the near collision.
The moral of this story is two-fold. Be alert for wildlife when you’re driving on New Hampshire roads – especially at dawn and dusk. AND when a car is flashing its headlights at you, don’t just assume it’s warning you of a hidden police cruiser!
Here are some Interesting tidbits:
There are approximately 85,000 deer in New Hampshire
Deer are able to run up to 40 miles per hour
Deer can jump 9-foot fences
Deer can swim 13 miles per hour
New Hampshire designated the white-tailed deer as the state animal in 1983
There are approximately 6,000 moose in New Hampshire
The average moose weighs 1,000 pounds
Moose average 8-10 feet long, 5-7 feet tall at the shoulder and your headlights will often only reveal their legs
Don’t count on seeing “eye shine” with moose (and some deer) – moose eyes do reflect light, but your headlights won’t reach that high