The Libby area residents are heading toward a record year for slaughtering deer — with motor vehicles on local state highways.
Since Labor Day, state highway workers have picked up 109 deer carcasses from local highways U.S. Highway 2 and Montana Highway 37, reports Van Swearingen, Libby district road supervisor.
For the year, the state workers have picked up 276 carcasses.
This doesn't include what the food pantry picks up, what people take or drag off the roadside or animals drag off, just what area state highway workers pick up.
And it appears we're heading for a record year.
Typically, this area averages 150 to 180 deer kills picked up by state highway workers. Swearingen says that after the winter of 1996-1997 the number of road kills bumped up to 190 for that year.
The enormity of the expense involved by motorists and the state has to be considered. State workers are required by law to transport every carcass to the county landfill, regardless of where that deer is picked up. That's time and money spent by the state. And the toll on local motor vehicles is — well, that's 276 vehicles dinged to mangled with deer fur, gristle and blood
The situation is made worse because of all the mild winters we've had since 1996-1997. And another is being forecast for this winter.
Consider this, everyone you talk to has a deer-in-the-yard story. Or a deer on the corner or 'Did you see the muley herd hanging out on the hospital lawn all summer?' story.
Have you read the story out of Helena this week about the newspaper delivery boy attacked by four bucks? Fish, Wildlife and Parks had to kill the animals.
Here's some local statistics from Van Swearingen: 80 percent of the highway deer strikes have occurred within 3-5 miles of Libby on highways 2 and 37. Sixty to 80 pecent of those accidents occurred on the four lane section of U.S. 2.
The location with the most highway deer kills is U.S. 2 in front of R & Y Cabinets.
"I'm surprised the front of that building isn't red," Swearingen says.
And for the good news: we've got two more months this year and Swearingen believes we will go over 300 this year.
Be careful out there. — Roger Morris