A record book for road kill?

July 01, 2008 at 09:25 AM

Motorists hit a deer somewhere in the United States 1.5 million times a year. Those are the ones we know about. Estimates are that only about half the drivers who hit a deer report it. In this neck of the woods, almost everyone I know has hit a deer with a car, truck or motorcycle. Several of them have hit more than one.

Hitting a deer with your vehicle is unsettling, not to mention expensive. In the 10 worst states for vehicle/deer collisions, the cost of vehicle repair and replacement in 2006 was more than $270 million. Illinois is third on that top-10 list.

Many times, the motorist never sees it coming. No matter how observant you are or how carefully you drive, a deer can jump up out of a ditch or run out of a cornfield and be lined up on your hood ornament before you catch sight of it. Even if we could build fences 12 feet high along every highway and blacktop road in the state, deer still would get caught in the headlights.

With nearly 4,200 deer a day colliding with motor vehicles in the U.S., it’s possible that a car — not a hunter — could harvest the next world-record buck. Many deer-hunting experts believe that record buck is roaming the countryside somewhere in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri or Wisconsin —states with interstate and two-lane highways, as well as surfaced secondary roads, going through mile after mile of outstanding deer habitat. However, big-game animals that are not killed by fair chase are not eligible for recognition in the record books.

Richard Sanders believes trophy-class animals that are killed crossing the road deserve to be recognized. Sanders of Prescott, Wis., is the co-creator of RoadKillRecordBook.com. After seeing a trophy black bear dead on the side of the road last fall, Sanders decided to launch the site to register exceptional deer, bears, cougar, elk, bobcats and many other animals that have been killed by vehicles.

“It’s not (the animal’s) fault they were hit by a car or truck,” he says. “These (trophy) animals should not disappear into thin air because there is no place to register them.”

Sanders is quick to point out that the Web site does not encourage or condone intentionally creating roadkill, and that the Web site provides awareness information such as peak danger seasons for vehicle-deer collisions. There also is an apparel section for those who can’t decide what to wear to the state fair.

While I understand Sanders’ intention is to recognize the animal and not the driver, I don’t see myself sending in roadkill for trophy consideration. Even if the accident was completely unavoidable, I don’t want to be known as the guy who took down the world-record buck with an F-150.