Lessons learned after a sad sight on the river

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A wounded deer is fed on by a magpie.

Imagine being hit by a car. Imagine that you have a gaping wound in your back leg, but you still manage to make it off the road and down to the Flathead River, where you get a drink and rest.

But then the birds come and begin to feed on your wound as you lay out in the open. Magpies and ravens carry away your flesh and feed on it in the trees.

So you plunge into the frigid water and with your arms, swim a 100 yards to a sandbar in the middle of the river.

But the birds are relentless. They sit on your back and feed on you.

The life is leaving you.

But with one last great push you drag yourself to deeper water, where you can swim with your arms only and make it the rest of the way across the river.

But once at shore, you’re done, spent. All you can do is blink.

And the birds? For them, it’s a better opportunity. Now you’re completely exposed.

If this sounds like a nightmare, it is. This was the story of a young buck whitetail last week. A reader called to say they saw it in the river and the birds were feeding on it and it was still alive. I went down to see and then called police, asking them to take the deer out of its misery.

When I arrived the deer,a young buck in what should have been the prime of its life, was in the middle of the Flathead River, its back legs broken and the birds were feeding on it, even as it struggled. Still, it did manage to swim the rest of the river where it came to rest on the shore.

Police dispatched it.

The realities of this modern life is that many creatures die on roadways. I accidentally hit a deer just the other day. Probably my fault. I was talking on the phone and didn’t see it.

The deer died. The car was ruined. A lesson learned. Put down the phone and keep it down.

But phones aside, collisions are sometimes inevitable. Our roads and our cars all have an impact on wildlife. A languishing deer last week is just one story in hundreds of stories that play out each year on our highways.

We’ve roaded just about every nook and cranny of the Lower 48. Even the deepest parts of the Bob Marshall are only 25 miles or so from the nearest road, if that. So I’ve come to appreciate Montana’s open spaces more than ever.

But this is not a rail against roads. But is a plea to slow down just a bit, put down the phone and keep your eyes open for our four-legged friends.

Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.

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