“There are two kinds of drivers who live in the Hill Country of Central Texas – those who have hit deer, and those who are going to.” ~ Me
Having lived in Mason, Texas all my life, except for brief stints in Abilene and Brownwood, I’ve learned to watch for deer on the roads, especially at night. It’s not uncommon to drive the 27 miles from Mason to Brady, or the 42 miles from Mason to Junction, and see over 200 deer along the sides of the highway. The only way to avoid seeing deer at night is to drive with your eyes closed.
Not that I’m recommending that. No doubt I’ll get an angry, spittle-flecked letter written in crayon telling me it’s dangerous to drive with your eyes closed, and that by the way I’ll be receiving a large emergency medical services bill soon. So I want to make it clear that I’m not suggesting using The Force when you’re behind the wheel.
I’m also not suggesting that anyone should ever, under any circumstances, operate a motor vehicle in the area of Weeki Wachee, Florida. There’s a good reason for that, despite the fact that I’m tempted to go to Weeki Wachee and speed, so I could get caught and get a ticket, and frame it and hang it on my wall. That would be a great conversation starter. “And this is the ticket I got for speeding in Weeki Wachee. I had to pay a finee. With real monee.”
No, there’s actually a good reason to avoid driving around Weeki Wachee – bears. The deer we have to watch out for in the Texas Hill Country usually don’t go much over 125 pounds, which is big enough, but there are bears around Weeki Wachee that are much bigger. An ambulance hit one recently that weighed 225 pounds, and it did some serious damage, according to a story on the Predator Xtreme website. Took a fender off, and bent the body and a side step all to smash.
The interesting part of the story, though, is that a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist went out and found the dead bear in the marsh after the accident. He measured the bear, and took a hair sample. Yes, a hair sample. No, I don’t know why. Maybe the FFWCC is doing a study to find out what kind of hair cream is preferred by bears that cross highways around Weeki Wachee. Or something.
And speaking of funny names, a woman was recently attacked by otters in the Hebgen Basin area of West Yellowstone, near the Madison River bridge. She reported ‘significant bites to her hand,’ according to the story in the Bozeman (Montana) Daily Chronicle. Which brings up the question – what kind of bites would be considered insignificant? I guess those would be otter bites to someone else’s hand.
A man was later attacked by otters in the same area while fishing, and the local Dept. of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks advises that, while otter attacks are rare, they can be aggressive, and people ‘should keep a safe distance from otters and their pups.’ I’m wondering if 2,500 miles is far enough.
The good news is that I live about 3,000 miles from the scene of our next story, although considering the gravity of the incident I’m not sure that’s enough, either. William ‘Mac’ Hollan, a 35-year-old student teacher for a Sandpoint, Idaho elementary school, was riding his bicycle from Sandpoint to Prudhoe Bay as a fundraiser for a school lunch program, when he was chased by a gray wolf somewhere in the Yukon. The Predator Xtreme story was vague as to exactly where this happened. It was also vague as to what other kind of teacher there might be, besides a ‘student teacher.’ Who else would a teacher teach?
Anyway, Mac was about half a mile ahead of his two buddies when the wolf came out of the trees beside the road and took a chomp at his pedal, but missed. It then fell in behind Mac, who immediately went into his best Lance Armstrong impression, but couldn’t go fast enough to keep the wolf from nipping at his panniers, probably thinking to cut Mac’s hamstrings like he would a moose or something. Mac used bear spray on the wolf, which seemed to whet its appetite. What have I been telling you about that stuff?
Mac finally came around a corner and saw a hill ahead, and knew the jig was up. He had just leapt from his bike and was preparing to make a last stand, ala Liam Neeson in ‘The Gray,’ when an RV stopped and he dove inside. The wolf attacked the bike like it was prey, and only relented when a bunch more people arrived and started throwing rocks at it.
This story proves what I’ve been telling my friend, Randy Young, for years. Riding a bike is dangerous. I mean, seriously.
The bottom line is that while hitting a deer with your vehicle is unpleasant and often expensive, it beats hitting a bear, and it’s an awful lot more pleasant than being attacked by otters or chased by hungry wolves.
It’s also a far cry from being killed in bed by a cow falling through your roof, which is what happened to Joao Maria de Souza, of Caratinga, Brazil recently. But we don’t have time for that . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker whose bike features forward and rear rocket launchers. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org