Recent columns about dead deer on the roads and an opossum in the backyard prompted some interesting feedback.
DEAR JOAN: We've noticed the annual upswing in deer-related crashes on the highways the last few weeks. From a low of 22 in August to more than 100 in September. So far this month we're at 33.
We average well over 500 deer a year hit and killed just on the state highways here in the nine Bay Area counties. Add those hit on city streets and county roads and I think we're more than 1,000 a year. Then there's the cost of damages, repairs and the trauma or injuries to the drivers.
James D. Richardson
Department of Transportation
DEAR JAMES: That's a frightening number of deaths, and a good many of them could probably be avoided if drivers were driving more cautiously. Thanks for the perspective.
DEAR JOAN: One thing that really helps me is to have passengers be on the lookout for deer, especially on the sides of the road, so I don't have to take my eyes off the road. My 16-year-old has much better eyesight than I do.
Valerie Jo Remley
DEAR VALERIE: That's a great idea when there are passengers in the car. I hope folks will take your suggestion.
Opossum in the yard
DEAR JOAN: "Make your yard unfriendly to opossums?" No way! I've learned to appreciate my hardworking team of wildlife workers.
The opossums take care of rotting fruit, raccoons eliminate the slugs, skunks dig up the wasp nests and hummers pollinate the garden. All of this is smoothly orchestrated by Hoffa the Squirrel, who ensures no acorn is left in my path.
As an urbanite who has adapted to local wildlife, I wish we all would spend a few extra minutes providing a lone opossum with a little spot to live. The benefits are worthwhile.
DEAR B.D.: What a refreshing attitude. I seem to get a lot of letters from folks trying to get rid of the wildlife in their yards. To each his or her own, but I'm with you. Wildlife can cause some problems in urban areas, but learning to live in harmony has definite rewards.
DEAR JOAN: I wish you had mentioned to J. Crooms of Kensington that it might be a good thing to have the little displaced opossum living in her yard.
This from the Humane Society: "Far from being a nuisance, opossums can be beneficial for your garden, eating snails, slugs, insects and sometimes even small rodents. They'll even clean up spilled garbage as well as that fallen fruit off trees."
And they also eat carrion, so they are part of nature's cleanup crew. I hope you'll put in a good word for opossums. I'm always glad when one finds my yard hospitable.
DEAR RHONDA: Looking at wildlife as partners and not invaders, is a good first step.
When opossums, squirrels, raccoons and other wildlife visit your yard, watch from afar and remind yourself how great this planet is.