It’s a normal weekday morning. The evening before Wim received a report that a deer had hit the N743 near Almelo. “This is really a hotspot, as we call it. The province has placed game mirrors here and it has already become a lot better. Those mirrors work in the dark and should actually deter the deer. But apparently the animal was so hunted that wanted to cross the road anyway,” said Wim.
The driver of the car called the national police number. He will forward the report to the Hengelo police. “From there, our picket number is called and someone is sent.” Wim is the so-called trap game coordinator in Twente and calls volunteers who live closest to the collision.
In this case, he went for it himself. “I then spoke to those involved. Apparently the deer struggled in the verge and the driver had considerable damage to the car. Only the deer was no longer there and probably ran into the dense vegetation after all.” The volunteers do not search in the dark, then they have too little view of the game. “I did have a look with the thermal imager, but found nothing.”
Which brings us to the morning after the collision. A sweathound is used to track down the deer. “Sweat is ‘smell’ in hunting terms. That can be blood, but also the traces that are left in the grille of the car,” explains Wim. On location, the sweathound handler is ready for the search. “Hopefully we can find the deer.”
And the latter, according to Wim, is not a certainty. “It doesn’t always work, but in this case the car had a lot of damage. So I think the deer was hit quite a bit and then it often has internal bleeding. The liver is then torn or the lungs are broken and the deer is usually fine somewhere within two hundred yards.”
In the spring, when the calves are rejected and most collisions take place, Wim sometimes receives 20 to 25 reports in one week. But it never really takes getting used to. “There are the best bangers that we see. That is not normal. Deer that are completely stuck in the grille, for example.” Wim himself has never experienced that the motorist was fatally injured. “Luckily not, but of course there is that chance. It can go wrong.”
That is why the trap game coordinator has an important tip. “Bring the brakes, but keep the steering wheel straight. That is easier said than done, of course, because it is a startle reaction. But someone who swerves can hit a tree or oncoming vehicle.”
Smell picked up
Back to the search. The sweathound of handler Ton Groothuis has picked up a smell from the blood and the tufts of hair on the road and soon leaves for the forest. A few minutes and about a hundred yards later there she is, a young goat. Wim is happy that they managed to find the animal, but that’s about it. “We’re taking so much off the road. That’s just a shame.”
And that number just keeps rising. Since 2015, the number of collisions with deer has increased by ten percent every year. Even in times of corona, when there were fewer cars on the road, the number of collisions rose sharply. How is that possible?
“There are disruptions due to corona. It has brought people to places where they did not come before. Other causes are stray dogs and motocross riders who fly into nature reserves. But it is also natural behaviour,” says Wim.
Curious about the images of Wim’s search? Then watch the video:
The sweathound has done its job well. Wim lifts the deer and carries it to his car. Quite a tough journey, because such a young animal quickly weighs 25 kilos. Then it is time to return the dead animal to nature.
“I’m taking it to a forest plot far from the public road. It’s too busy here. Then a fox can still come and run the risk of being hit by a car. Deep in the forest, the deer are eaten by birds of prey , badgers, but also beetles and mice are added. Within a few weeks it will be gone. That’s how it works, the circle of nature.”