There have been a number of run-ins with doe-eyed Disney-esque darling deer — including right here in Sooke. Riding safely in their midst means knowing certain deer facts.
Pay attention to the road signs. If there is a Deer Crossing sign, it means more than just a photo opp. Slow down, and perk up.
Deer tend to come out of the woods in the transition hours, during dawn and dusk.
They travel in multiples. If you see one, expect to see another nearby. Especially around this time of year when those darn pesky teen-age equivalents venture out on their own with their radical road-crossing deer peers.
If it’s hot and humid and the mosquitos are nipping at your heels (and ankles and neck), they are also bugging the deer. They (the deer) will leave the forest and seek relief in more open areas. Like roads.
While there are many emergency manoeuvres available to you, your best bet to avoid merging flesh with a deer is to apply your emergency braking strategy. Simply put: Push and Pull. Push down with both your feet (gear down, back brake – 30 per cent braking power) and pull in with both your hands (clutch in, front brake – 70 per cent braking power). Deer evasion strategies include leaping randomly about. Great if a cougar is chasing them; not so great when they are trying to avoid an emergency-swerving rider.
Knowing other animals behaviours can also be useful.
Cats and squirrels will both retreat on a previously-proven safe route when frightened. This means that if they are 7/8 across the road when they are startled by you, they will run “back” across the proven safe route. This may put them directly in your path of travel. Your best bet is not to startle them, which you can do by slowing down and revving up.
Dogs like a dashing challenge. They will race to intersect with your ankle. An emergency swerve just before the point of contact, combined with an emergency acceleration (gear down, rev up), will get you out of there without a new ankle ornament.
Skunks (which we don’t have on the island) own the road. Period.
As one of my colleagues used to teach, if you can’t eat it in one sitting, avoid it.
And if any of the emergency tactics described above terrify you, you might consider taking a course. We have several fine riding school in the Greater Victoria area.