I was driving home with the family last weekend on the A1 in Yorkshire when I spotted a deer (Roe Deer, Capreolus capreolus) run onto the carriageway in front of traffic. Several cars braked and swerved, but it quickly leapt over the central reservation and across the opposite carriageway. It appeared just luck that it was not hit by a car, and so I can only assume that it was in some panic to take such a reckless risk. Indeed it seemed full of adrenalin as it continued its mad dash almost in parallel with us as we continued south. Obvious to us was its white rump which apparently expands when alarmed by raising the relevant hairs.
The Forestry Commission estimate the number of Roe Deer in the UK at about half a million; quite a comeback from its extinction in England during the 18th century. This recovery from remnant populations in the Scottish Highlands has been facilitated by reintroductions. However a survey conducted by the Highways Agency in 1998 concluded that there were 20'000 to 42'000 road traffic accidents involving deer per annum. They also estimated that each human injury accident cost approximately £50'000 to the economy. Since deer populations have shown continued steady growth over recent years, this must be a growing concern for everyone. There are therefore many measures to reduce such incidents, including fencing, roadside reflectors and signage at known crossover deer routes. Of course we can all take our own action to reduce the likelihood by adopting a more defensive driving approach; in our case we were seconds from a potential multi-vehicle pile up.
A little further on I spotted a weasel on the verge, which along with the many other wildlife observations I experience whilst driving, reminded me how versatile wildlife is in adapting to man's encroachment on their habitat, and how opportunistic some species can be. Perhaps we can all show a bit more consideration in the way we drive, and thereby reduce wildlife and human tradegy.