I was driving on Highway 101 late one evening near Gaviota when a car ahead of me suddenly encountered a very tough scenario. A pack of coyotes ran out onto the road to cross it, just as the car rounded a bend and bore down on them with no room to slam on the brakes.
It happened so quickly. The critters were in a string across the road, and the driver had to decide instantaneously whether to swerve off the road and smash into a mountainside, or take out at least one of the coyotes.
Naturally, the driver chose survival, and in my estimation did an credible job of maneuvering the car so that only one of the coyotes was hit. I was right behind that driver, and I can say that there were no other courses of action available.
That driver stopped, and I stopped on the side of the road. The coyote that was hit was thrown off the side of the road by the impact and was indeed dead. The other coyotes hung about for nearly a minute before the leader determined there was nothing they could do for their dead companion and by staying longer the rest of the pack was in potential danger. After a last look back at their pack member, they silently trotted away up a little draw.
I consoled the driver, and we checked the car for damage and found very little. We shook hands sadly and went on our separate ways. I’m sure that memory still haunts her as it does me.
I try really hard not to wish for what can’t be, but I must confess that I wish we could make safe critter crossings on our roadways. I’d like to see them on our local roads, too, because I see way too many dead skunks, possums, raccoons and other critters on our roads and city streets. I care about critters, like most of you do. We can’t very well decide to spend a few hundred millions of dollars to make critter crossings every 50 yards, which is probably what it would take to even make a substantial dent in the problem. But I do wish we could do something constructive to help critters coexist more safely with us as neighbors.
Creating such places would be a trade-off at best because we would also be creating predatory opportunity hotspots where hungry critters can wait for target critters to emerge. I understand the natural order well enough to know that even if we could come up with enough money to do something, figuring out how to engineer such places — considering both traffic and predators — would be a daunting task.
But I’ve seen enough road kill to make me sincerely wish for a solution. Are you with me?
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.