Human actions can take tremendous toll on our wildlife

I was reminded the other day of the sad toll we take as motorists on the animals with which we share our environment.

I was returning to our Boardman home on Glenwood Avenue after a short walk in nearby Mill Creek Park, which borders the avenue, when I noticed a crouched cat right in the middle of the street’s intersection with Midlothian Boulevard.

Another car coming in the opposite direction had slowed to almost a stop to also observe the stricken animal.

I continued on to our home a short distance away where my curiosity as to what had happened to the cat got the better of me. (My wife and I have been fond owners of cats for many years.)

When I arrived back at the intersection, I noticed that the cat had moved itself into low weeds that border the berm on the west side of Glenwood.

I parked nearby, and walked up to the feline, which was a good-sized animal with thick light-brown fur. It looked up at me with very somber gray eyes. It had been terribly injured by a car as it crossed the intersection, possibly headed back to the nearby residence where it lived, after a prowl in the park, or vice versa.

About four inches of fur had been torn off from around its entire neck, leaving a large unsightly wound. (I don’t know how it could have survived such an injury, but it still was able to move away from me, going a little farther into the weeds.)

Another passerby had left food for the animal, but I couldn’t see how it could have eaten anything, given its condition.

I possibly could have taken the cat to a nearby animal-care facility known as Animal Charity but I decided that this was more than what I wanted to attempt. How could I have picked the cat up, given its condition?

Also, the animal care center might not have exactly welcomed the grievously injured cat, especially since (according to the evening TV news) it had recently taken in a good number of cats left in an abandoned house

So, I just returned home again, where I called the Boardman and Youngstown police departments to report the cat’s plight. (The two communities border the intersection where the cat was hit.)

When I returned to the intersection some time later, the cat was gone. I imagine that the police had taken care of the situation. I don’t think it could have moved on by itself.

I have since felt some guilt that I hadn’t done more to save the cat. (Second- guessing one’s actions — or inactions — can be a little depressing).

The incident reminded me of other times when I have witnessed traffic’s toll on animals.

At the bottom of a hill where the Athom Road crosses a creek north of Tidioute, I once came across a mother opossum which had been hit by a car.

The marsupial’s numerous young, which cling to their mother after their birth, were still holding onto her lifeless body. There was of course no hope for them, so I just left the sad scene where crows and other scavengers were bound to soon feast on both the mother and her offspring.

Then there was the poignant plight of a large doe which was hit by a car along Route 62 north of our river cabin at Althom (which I have written about in the past).

While canoeing, I came upon the doe, which was struggling in the sand at the tip of an island at the north end of the Althom Eddy, which is located about half way between Tidioute and Irvine. She could only raise the front portion of her body above the sand.

According to two men who were putting siding on a newly constructed cabin opposite the island to the east, the doe had obviously been hit by a car along Route 62 above the island.

She managed to get down to the Allegheny River from the highway, and then had struggled down the river to the tip of the island where she became marooned because her hind quarters were paralyzed.

I told the workers that I would all the Game Commission about the deer. (The island is just east of 14,000-acre Game Lands 86.) “They will never do anything,” one of the workers remarked.

But I did notice that the deer was gone a few days later following my call to the Commission’s local headquarters in Franklin.

I assumed that Commission deputies in a boat had shot an removed the paralyzed deer.

But the Game Commission wasn’t of much help when an injured deer died on our Althom property only a few steps from our porch overlooking the river. When I asked that it be removed, I was told that the Commission only removes deer which are lying on or close to a road, and thus pose a traffic risk. The remains of others are left to scavenger animals.

With no little effort, I was able to load the deer into the back of my hatchback car, and then deposit it in a clump of saplings well off the road north of Althom. When I checked the site some weeks later, little remained of the carcass but hair and a few bones.

The wildlife toll on Route 62 south of Warren must be rather high, since the road runs along the eastern edge of the Allegheny National Forest for much of its 30-mile stretch between Irvine and Tionesta. Wildlife, especially deer, often come down from the forest to drink in the river, which means that they have to cross Route 62.

In my drives along Route 62, I once saw a fox jumping in its death throes after being hit by a vehicle near Irvine, and a dead black bear lying along the road just north of Tidioute.

But in many years of driving in northwest Pennsylvania, I have never had a violent collision with a running deer, although there have been many near-misses.

I did run into a deer last fall which had been hit previously and was lying across the road. (The repair bill for my car came to almost $3,000.)

On another occasion, I was rather unwisely driving late one summer evening across the wild area that lies between Titusville and Tidioute when I came up to what must have been a small herd of deer.

Some were just standing along the road, while others were grazing in a nearby pasture.

I slowly moved past the animals without incident. But a driver going faster than I had been could have easily struck one or more.

Driving on rural Pennsylvania roads at night (or at dusk or dawn) when deer are most apt to be on the move can be risky.

Robert Stanger has lived seasonally for over 40 years along the Allegheny River and has the stories to tell about it.


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