DEAR JOAN: I saw no fewer than four dead deer on the side of the road in a 24-hour period, on Ygnacio Valley Road and on Highway 24, on Sept. 21 and 22. This upset me extremely.

Three looked to be young bucks. My husband's theory is that they are coming down off Mount Diablo because the fire destroyed their food sources. Whatever the reason, can we all slow down and keep our eyes on the road and scan the shoulders? This collateral damage along our "rivers of death" has me depressed.

Rosalie Howarth

Walnut Creek

DEAR ROSALIE: The fire may have displaced many animal residents of the mountain, but it's more likely these fellows were killed while searching for love.

This time of year, you are more likely to find deer in unusual places. Be careful when driving.
This time of year, you are more likely to find deer in unusual places. Be careful when driving. (Courtesy of Dorothy Lewis)

Rutting season occurs in autumn, and the competition for female companionship makes the bucks both a little nutty and fearless.

For whatever reason the deer may be on the roadways, it is up to us to watch out for them. Sometimes, accidents are unavoidable, but if we drive with the idea that wildlife is in the area and may dart out in front of us, then we may be able to avoid a tragedy.

It's not just dangerous for the deer. Motorists also are at risk of injury and death.

As the days get shorter, we often are driving in the dark or near darkness, making it ever more crucial to pay attention.

Here are some tips to help.

  • Look for the reflection from the deer's eyes and for silhouettes on the shoulder of the road.

  • Using high-beams at night, when traffic allows it, helps you see those eye reflections from a greater distance.

  • If you see one deer, it's likely there will be another. Drive slowly until you have safely cleared the area and can resume speed.

  • If the deer is in the road, pull over to the shoulder, turn on your hazard lights and wait for the deer to move on. Do not try to drive around it.

    DEAR JOAN: We recently removed a mass of ivy from our yard. Since then, I've been seeing a small opossum wandering around during daytime hours.

    I surmise that he may have been living in the ivy and is looking for a new home. Yesterday I surprised him near the compost heap -- leaves, pine needles, green kitchen waste with no meat or dairy.

    Do I need to try to trap him and get rid of him, or will he eventually find a new home elsewhere? He seems to be "flying solo."

    J. Crooms

    Kensington

    DEAR J.: Opossums are nocturnal, but it's not unusual to see them in the daytime if they been pushed out of their dens or if food is scarce.

    Your opossum may have been living in a cozy area created by the ivy, or the ivy may have been a prime source of food.

    He probably was looking for food in your compost pile, too.

    I'd ask you to let him to be. If there is no easy access to food, water and housing, he'll move on to better living accommodations.

    The encounter with you and the removal of the ivy may already have discouraged him. Continue to make your yard unfriendly to opossums.

    Opossums are very much the loners. It would be more unusual if you'd seen two in your yard.

    Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com or 1700 Cavallo Road, Antioch, CA 94509. Follow her at Twitter.com/AskJoanMorris.