I don’t know if anybody else has noticed this, but there has been a dramatic change in the deer population. It began in the spring of 2010. Before that, I had to be really, really careful when I went out driving. The deer were big, almost as big as horses, and they were really dumb. They’d see a car coming and they’d start running. They had no idea where they were running. It could be away from the road. Or it could be toward the road and a head-on collision with the car. It was like Russian roulette.
This business of the big deer had been going on for years and years. There was another thing about them—they traveled in pairs. One would assume they were a couple, like a married couple, and so it was really sad when the collisions came. I have to say that I have been lucky in my time here. There was just one occasion when I hit a deer, and that was about 15 years ago just to the west of the Bridgehampton School right on the Montauk Highway. I was heading eastbound. The deer was killed on impact and thrown onto the shoulder of the road. My car had a broken grille and headlight. It was so awful. I stopped the car and called the police. I also examined the dead deer. He was dead all right. And so I waited for the police to come take over.
Beginning in the spring of 2010 and continuing on right through to today, however, there has been a whole change in the deer situation. It’s quite a bit safer. The deer, it seems to me, are smaller and lighter, and they don’t travel as pairs, they travel as threesomes. What is more interesting and more to the point though is that they seem to be quite aware of cars. They stand still for a moment when they see or hear one coming. They size up the situation. Then they run away, not just at random, but away from where the car is coming from.
I read an article the other day about the ability of animals and other creatures to evolve quite suddenly. Prior to recent discoveries, it was thought that evolution would take hundreds of years to happen. Now, it’s been found to happen in just two generations.
I don’t know if the deer have evolved or not. Maybe they have since 2009. Or maybe this is a whole new species of deer: smaller, smarter, highly sexed.
I say highly sexed because they travel in threes. In prior years I have seen three deer and it’s always been this gentle domestic situation—the mom and the dad and the young one, or maybe the mom and the dad and two or three young ones. This makes it especially hard to take when you hit a member of a family like that. Now the three appear as equals. It makes you wonder what the situation is.
I have several theories that try to explain what I am looking at.
The first is that this is the same species we had before, but they have evolved into becoming smaller and smarter.
The second is that this is the same species, but what I’m looking at are three females. It has not passed my notice in the past that the females are smaller than the males. So now what? What I’ve made up is that these three females are a new family group, girlfriends who have bonded together after kicking out the dumb big guys. Do they have sex together? Do bears sh-t in the woods?
I am, however, willing to consider that these are just a new, pluckier kind of deer, perhaps further advanced than the dumb big ones we used to have. Maybe the cars and trucks have killed all the big ones off. Now the smaller ones have moved in. Could be.
Earlier this summer, we had a big wedding in East Hampton and family members came from far and wide. Several of them came from Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, and we put them up for the weekend in a nice mansion on Apaguogue Road where many deer cavort.
One of these couples had come by small plane to the wedding, and they asked about the deer. Small planes and deer are a bad mix.
“Is this an out-of-control problem?” I was asked.
I told them not at all, they are much smarter than they used to be, and so it is share the road and live and let live. I also told them that East Hampton Airport, which they came into, has a high deer fence all around so that’s not a problem.
“Just keep in mind that they are in packs of three,” I said. “See one, there will shortly be another two. I think they are lesbians. Lesbians who like threesomes.”