An animal migration bridge across I-70 is well worth it
December 1, 2005
There is nothing like it in the world, and this is not a good thing.Now when someone usually makes this statement, it is an exaggeration. But trust me on this one; when you plow into a large animal with your car, it feels like nothing else in the whole wide world.My wife and I have lived in the High Country for more than 10 years and had managed, until recently, to avoid animals of all kinds by a combination of reflexes, knowing where the most-likely animal crossings were and just plain dumb luck. But this last year has been different. For some reason, our cars have become animal magnets and the results are both terrifying and frustrating.
Anytime I get into my car, I’m almost sick with worry that I’ll hit some poor creature just minding its own business while crossing the road. And this fear is founded in the terrible truth that I’ve become a menace to the animal kingdom. After all, I’ve hit a rash of critters I can only call, “suicidal rabbits.” These poor bunnies appear out of nowhere to jump in front of my speeding car and then they just stop under the tires. And somehow they always manage to pick a spot when I’m unable to swerve around them because of oncoming traffic.In just one week, I hit three of the little buggers, and I’m beginning to think that maybe I’ve been picked as some kind of angel of death for rabbits.But none of the bunny accidents compared to the time we hit an elk.My family and I had just reached Park County on our way back from Albuquerque, NM. It was dark, and I was asleep in the front seat. Our two girls were asleep in the back, and my wife was driving.
I really don’t know what woke me up, but just as I was opening my eyes, I saw the elk. It filled the windshield as it jumped directly into our path and about the time I screamed – and yes I screamed about as loud as that woman in the new King Kong movie – the car plunged onto its side.Even with the impact my wife managed to keep us on the road and by a streak of luck, for us anyway, the elk hit the front end at just the right angle so as to scoop up the hood and stop it from flying through the windshield.After the accident, we somehow limped home with our daughters miraculously still asleep in the back seat. But the next day when we looked at the car, we were shocked to discover that the entire front end had been flattened by the impact. How that engine kept running and the twisted radiator held water is beyond me.
There is now a proposal on the books to create some kind of animal bridge on I-70 where deer and elk are known to cross and cause accidents, and, even though I don’t know much about it, I’ve heard there are already politicians out there making jokes about the cost of the project and what is thought of as a wasted expense.Obviously, they have never been behind the wheel of a car and seen the look of terror in an animal’s eyes after it’s been hit.I say build it. If it saves one family and one animal from a sad end then it’s worth every dime.Andrew Gmerek writes a Friday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.