Clarke County resident Tracey Griffith is an early riser each day so that she can get to Leesburg in time to open the restaurant and catering business where she works. Griffith’s morning routine usually doesn’t vary much – she tries to leave her house near Boyce with plenty of time for her commute over the mountain to Leesburg, but not before she walks and feeds her three dogs.
“I was getting ready for work when all of a sudden my dogs started going nuts,” Griffith recounted.
Griffith, whose home faces Route 50 near the Shenandoah River, quickly went to her window in order to see what the problem might be. What Griffith saw was a morning eye-opener more stimulating than even a double-expresso latte.
“I pulled back the curtain and the first thing that I saw was a large buck lying on its side in the middle of the road,” Griffith said. “Then I noticed all of these cars and people in my front yard.”
The scene that Griffith encountered might best be labeled a “spontaneous deer strike response.”
The half dozen or so people in Griffith’s front yard were commuters who had stopped to help the person who had hit the deer and to take charge of what quickly was becoming a dangerous traffic situation.
“There were cars and people everywhere” Griffith said. “Two women had pulled their vehicles onto the shoulder of the road and were out of their cars directing east bound commuters away from the lane where the deer was laying. Another man had pulled his truck into my driveway and was tending to the deer. Someone else was walking up the road to check on the person who had hit the deer.”
As Griffith began to process the scene that was unfolding before her eyes she quickly noticed that the deer that had been struck was still alive.
“After I saw that the driver of the car that struck the deer was safe and that the situation was being handled by all of these volunteers, my next thought was that the deer was suffering and needed to be put down.”
Acting quickly, Griffith grabbed her sharpest kitchen knife and rushed out the front door.
“I wasn’t really sure what I thought I would do with the knife but I had a vague notion that maybe someone could use it to put the deer down,” Griffith said.
But, to Griffith’s amazement, in the few seconds that it took Griffith to find the knife and get outside, the man driving the pickup truck that had been parked in Griffith’s driveway had not only pulled the large deer out of the road and into her front yard, he had also used his own hunting knife to slit the animal’s throat according to one of the women who had been directing traffic.
“By the time I got outside the man in the truck was gone,” Griffith said. “I then asked one of the women directing traffic if I should call someone about the deer. The woman replied ‘I just called my husband who works for VDOT. He said that they’re sending someone out to pickup the deer.’”
Within minutes, all of the good Samaritans, including the driver of the vehicle that had struck the deer, had returned to their cars and were gone leaving Griffith standing alone in her front yard with a dead deer and an interesting story about neighbors who came together to spontaneously solve a problem without being asked to get involved.
Clarke County Animal Control Officer sergeant Kenny Gall said that deer strikes are occurring several times a night at this time of year in Clarke County. Gall said that deer related accidents also take up a lot of patrol time. In many cases, Gall said, handling a deer-related accident also means using a service revolver to put the injured animal down.
“We prefer that people call us to report a deer accident, but it’s not required by law,” Gall said. “We would have liked to have been there to make sure that the traffic was handled safely, but in this case it sounds like the citizen’s handled the situation very well.”
Gall said that the proper use a hunting knife is a humane method for putting a deer out of its misery and is consistent with field practices used by hunters after a deer has been harvested.
Griffith said that she’s just glad that the deer didn’t have to suffer long after its morning encounter with traffic on Route 50. She’s also grateful to her unknown fellow commuters who cared enough about the safety of others, as well as a wounded animal, to risk their own safety along a busy stretch of commuter highway.
“Everything happened so fast that I didn’t get the chance to meet any of them. Before I knew it everyone was gone,” Griffith said. “Route 50 gets pretty busy in the morning. There’s a good chance that the people who took care of the problem prevented another accident. Maybe they saved someone’s life. I was just so cool to see something like this happen.”
Griffith said that VDOT also was true to its word. The dead deer was removed from Griffith’s yard the next day.