The One Thing You Should Do If You Hit A Deer

"We hit a deer last night."

It's amazing how just six words can ruin a perfect day.

I overheard those words when a woman at my early morning gym class told her friend as they were grabbing their dumbbells before the workout started. I gasped. It was obvious that she and her family were fine. But what about the deer?

My first thought was to ask her. I saw she was unruffled in her attitude as she relayed the remaining story in their conversation, so I decided against opening up my usually big mouth.

"We've hit two," the other woman said, nonchalantly, adding, "Are the kids all right?"

"Yeah," the first woman said. "They were a bit shaken up but they're OK." They continued to discuss how traumatic it was for the kids. No real bad damage to the car and they drove off, she said.

My heart sank.

But what of the deer? Was he down? Was he dead? Was he injured? Was he writhing in agony? Lying there alone on the road terrified and suffering with no help in sight? The woman seemed pretty apathetic. Not one ounce of compassion, so what did that project to her children? Sure, I was overhearing a story being relayed to someone else, but the lack of emotion was unsettling. She may as well have told her friend about the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches she made for the kids that day.

The friend never asked about the deer, and the other woman never mentioned the animal. It's just an animal. Just a rock. Just a highway marker. What's the difference to most people?

It begs the questions: How can any living being allow another living being to suffer and do nothing about it? And what does that teach our children?

Then I realized that lately I had been hearing a lot more about similar incidents and seeing articles and posts on Facebook about cars hitting deer.

There was a good reason. After doing a bit of my own research I found out this is the time of year when deer and auto collisions are at their highest. Between October and December is mating season, often a reason given for the increase in those types of accidents during these months. The top five states for such hazards at any given time are West Virginia, Montana, Iowa, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.

With regard to Facebook, what might seem like just another post to one person stabs the heart of another.

One such post stuck out in particular. A friend of a friend of a friend titled her post: "Me 1; Deer 0... I think," along with a photo of a bashed-in front car bumper.

As I expected, there were the comments asking if the person was OK or saying how happy to hear that the person was OK. Then the ignorant comments, such as "Stupid deer." Then my favorite, "Did you keep the deer for some meat?"

What's going on?

Is this the new reality when no one gives a damn? The woman wrote "I think" insinuating and making light that the injured deer was still out there stumbling around. We know the woman is OK, and, of course, that's important. But have we lost our humanity? Where is our compassion?

Urban sprawl and high speed limits don't help the situation. Every year there are about 1 million collisions with deer (not to mention other wildlife). Trust me. I get it. Hitting a deer is dangerous. And it's scary. Given that we know that, there are also ways to help decrease the incidents, starting with taking those deer crossing signs seriously and using your high beams. It's important to wear seatbelts and stay alert, and you can find more tips here.

OK, so given that you have done everything you can, say you hit a deer, everyone in the car is unharmed but a bit shaken and your car has some damage. But the deer is down, hurt and can't get up. Do you drive away and do nothing?

All you have to do is call the police. No matter where you are. They should be able to guide you to the correct authorities, or do the humane thing, if the deer is beyond help.

It's not just deer. There are plenty of other wild animals getting hit by cars every day who end up in the road half-dead - and dogs and cats are hit by cars all the time, some left suffering while motorists drive off and drive by. How do I know? Because I've stopped more times than I can count to assist dying animals. And, if I can't help, I make a phone call. It's the least we can do.

You have a cell phone, so use it.

One ounce of compassion takes just one phone call.