The Dangers of Deer in the District


“Dear PoPville,

My girlfriend (driver) and I were coming back from McLean Gardens last Saturday morning around 1:30 AM. Heading Southbound on Mass Ave, we both began to notice a figure by the side of the road up near the bus top at Edmunds and Mass close to the Naval Observatory. Already getting close, we slammed on the brakes as soon as we saw it was a deer and that it was heading into the street. By the time we began to slow, it was too late.

The deer stared into our headlights while slowly beginning to run. All this did, however, was place it directly into the path of our Jetta. We hit it square in the hips going about 15 mph, but its forward momentum continued to carry it into the path of unsuspecting, oncoming traffic.

A Honda Civic coming up Mass Avenue hit the deer at full speed, killing it instantly. By the time the whole thing was over, the Civic was missing a right wheel well and front bumper, and we had a nice dent in the hood. No one (but the deer) was hurt.

I pulled the dead doe out of the road and onto the tree bank, and we called 311. They said they’d take care of the deer, but told us to also call 911. When the cops arrived, they were pretty reverent, saying that: “we invaded the deer’s natural territory, and this thing was bound to happen…”

In any event, be careful out there. If it had been a buck or had we been going faster, it could have been much worse.”

36 Comment

    It is sad though, glad no human was hurt.

  • andy

    One of the many reasons for the Rock Creek Park deer culling.

    So, um, who ended up bringing the victim to the, uh, butcher shop? Not that I’m trying to get in on some venison sausage or anything.

  • what a horrible thing to experience.

  • ledroittiger

    This happened to me over the weekend in Rock Creek. Luckily, no one was hurt…

  • gotryit

    Driving on Mass Ave = Invading? WTF MPD! Are you kidding?

    • I think what the officers meant was that DC shouldn’t have been built in the first place.

    • I read that statement as saying “we (modern society) invaded (built lots of roads and buildings, etc)” rather than an accusation leveled at the driver. But that’s just my reading. Words are always a little flat on screen or page.

      • who knew MPD officers could be such tree huggers.

        • ah

          ^ Haha!

          Although it’s actually not right . . . what humans invaded was the territory of deer predators (and, in DC, limited hunting) which means the deer population has expanded.

          • We also created more habitat for them by turning everything into the edge of a forest, where deer hang out.

  • Emmaleigh504

    Sorry about your accident. Deer can do some major damage, I’m glad you all were unhurt.

  • I was walking up Mass from Dupont one Sunday afternoon, right by the conservatory, and there was a deer about 20 feet off the road grazing. It was compleately unphased by the multiple pedestrains or traffic. Sounds like everyone better be very carful driving along that corridor.

  • City folk are cute when they encounter wildlife.

    • Country folk are cute when they encounter Metro

      • No they’re not, ever been trying to get out of the Navy Yard stadium for a Nats game when 20,000 of them are trying to figure out how to use a Metro card?

  • pablo .raw

    Similar post on the “Prince of the Woods” blog: “The dangers of humans in the Woods”

  • First car crash (of two) I ever had was on a back road in upstate NY. I had just looked down at my speedometer too..was doing 62 mph…when a doe walked right out in front. Her head was smack dab in the middle of my hood, the body on the right front. Hit it, slammed on brakes, skidded a bit and in those brief moments I’m thinking “where is that deer” when all of the sudden it was falling from the sky directly in front of my car. Had to pull the E-brake and “drift” around the carcass as it fell from the sky. Looking back, it’s some of the best driving I’ve ever done, but that deer was seriously messed up. I was too young and too freaked out to get it out of the road though..always regretted that, but a deer carcass in the middle of a back road isn’t that uncommon in NY.

  • we invaded the deer’s natural territory, and this thing was bound to happen
    that deer has been waiting around a long time to for this to happen.

  • I was driving down 295 an not too far from what is going to be DHS I saw one that was just munching away and thought one loud noise and that dear is going to jump in front of a car and get hit.

    Of course that doesn’t beat me driving just where you were a number of years ago watching a dog chase a deer at full speed up Mass.

  • I remember a woman being killed in Fairfax (?) after hitting a deer that then flew into her windshield. I’m told that if you are braking for a deer but know you cannot avoid hitting it, that you should let off at the last second. Supposedly then you run over the deer instead of flipping it up in the air where it can then fall on you. Don’t know how you think to do that in the panic of the moment, however.

    • I think you should slow down and break as much as possible. Not to be all sciencey here, but in physics, force = mass * acceleration. You obviously can’t change the mass of you and your vehicle or the deer, but if you decelerate, then you are lowering the force of impact.

    • During hard braking, the front of your car is angled down, so that would make sense that it can flip it up.

      • Great point! Yes, letting off the brake one second before striking the deer should allow the suspension to retract into the full upright position. Braking while hitting the deer essentially turns the hood of your car into a ramp that leads directly to your windshield.

  • Be glad we don’t have Moose! The hood of the car goes right under their legs and the body hits square on the windshield. I’ve seen a seriously messed up driver. But Mass. Ave. is absolutely lousy with deer – I’ve seen herds of 15 grazing calmly in the median strip at night.

  • very existential reponse from MPD

  • The other day, after parking the car, I was walking on Observatory around 1am and this deer walks out between two parked cars and we nearly collided. Needless to say I was a little freaked out. The deer – she continued to a neighbors lawn and munched away.

    They need to do a serious culling of the deer in DC it is not healthy for the park, drivers or the deer.

  • So sorry this happened–for all involved! Glad most everyone is OK
    But hey–can we get a warning when a photo of a dead animal is about to appear as we innocently scroll down the page?
    Thanks 🙂

  • WHOA! Is everyone missing the bigger picture here? MPD is not actually blaming the victim here. Sensitivity training must be doing wonders for the team!

  • Sounds like you were going too fast. A lot of people objectively violate the speed limit there, but I would just point out that as a driver it is your responsibility to operate your car at a speed where you can understand and react to hazards in time, even if that means driving below the speed limit. Your description of the deer doesn’t indicate that it did anything suddenly — rather that you caught each other unawares. Probably could have happened to me too. Just saying. One more argument for slowing down a bit.

    • ya mon! let’s just all take a toke of this peace pipe and slow ourselves down a notch or two, knamean?

      • … I don’t get it — it’s simple physics. Also … “peace pipe”? I think you’re mixing up your stereotypes, although to what end, I have no idea.

  • I almost hit one on 95 South about a month ago. I just got onto the highway from Rt. 100 and a deer was just walking down the road. I swerved to miss it and almost lost control of my car. It was pretty late (around 1 AM)so there were not many cars on the road. If there had been, I could have easily ran into one.

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