- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

If you live in a rural area like me, and you mostly drive on country lanes bordered by corn and soybean fields, you may have noticed how many dead animals lie by the side of the road. The highways in Southern Maryland, where I reside, provide a sad reminder of what happens when young deer, raccoons, groundhogs, possums, squirrels or cottontail rabbits attempt to beat cars and trucks as they cross the asphalt.

It’s happening from Georgia to Maine and from Kansas to Montana. Newborn wildlife has a tough time adjusting to the infernal internal combustion machines that Aldous Huxley once referred to as having been created in man’s own image.

The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries has joined the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission in asking drivers to remember some important facts.

“Fawns, born from April through July, are purposely left alone by their mothers,” VDGIF biologist Nelson Lafon says. “The white-spotted coat camouflages a fawn as it lies motionless in vegetation. Female deer stay away from the fawns to avoid leading predators to their location. By giving it a wide berth, you also reduce the risk of inadvertently leading predators to the hidden fawn. Does will return several times each day to move and/or feed their young. You probably will not see the doe at all since she only stays to feed the fawn for just a very few minutes before leaving it alone again.”

And that’s where the problems begin. The little ones do not always stay obediently hidden in cover. Just three days ago, I saw a still-spotted fawn on its side, dead, along Route 6, near La Plata. Only 100 yards away lay a young dead groundhog and a stone’s throw away, a dead possum — all three struck by vehicles while these little ones tried to cross the road. They obviously had not yet learned to shun auto traffic. In fact, I believe a good number of them will never learn. Look at Pennsylvania, where some 50,000 whitetailed deer are struck by auto traffic every year.

If I see a deer by the side of the road, I slow down to a crawl, much to the consternation of the traffic behind me. But those folks never had the misfortunes I’ve had concerning deer. One year, driving a brand-new pickup truck, I collided with three deer in the space of nine weeks. Allstate was about to let me drop through its “good hands” if I killed a fourth.

One of the whitetailed wizards came barreling across the road a mere 50 feet in front of me less than a half mile from my home. I did a panic stop, worrying that more deer were about to come across and nine, in fact, did. One of them — despite my sitting perfectly still now — ran smack into the side of my new truck’s door and broke its neck. So much for how smart deer are.

The three wildlife departments also beg you not to “adopt” a wild animal. Even if you believe a little fawn has been abandoned, it probably wasn’t. Leave it be. Do not touch it. Besides, it’s against the law to pick up and keep a wild animal.

Easy license purchases in Virginia — Anglers will no longer have to wait in line to purchase daily fishing permits at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ three trout fishing areas that charge a special fee. Now anglers can purchase daily permits for fee lakes and regular fishing licenses by computer, telephone or at any hunting and fishing license agent. Use the VDGIF’s Web address — www.dgif.virginia.gov — to locate a license agent or to purchase permits and licenses on line. The toll free number to purchase by phone is 1-866-693-9157.

Fee fishing is a program that enables people to buy a daily permit to fish for freshly stocked trout at Crooked Creek in the Crooked Creek Wildlife Management Area, Big Tumbling Creek in the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area, and at Douthat Lake and Wilson Creek at Douthat State Park in Bath County. Anglers utilizing fee fishing waters must possess a general statewide fishing license and purchase a daily permit each day they fish.

EVENTS

• Bowhunter education course — Aug. 1, 3, at La Plata Firehouse, and Aug. 5, 15, 17, 19 at St. Charles Sportsman Club in Waldorf. Pre-register Saturday. The courses address only bowhunting and are separate from any Hunter Safety classes you’ll need to obtain a first hunting license. For information, contact [email protected]

• Pistol shooting class — Aug. 6 at National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax. Learn about all types of pistols in a safe, way at the 10-hour Basic Pistol Shooting class. The certificate you receive can be used to apply for a Virginia concealed handgun permit. Information: [email protected], 703/267-1567.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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