This contribution is difficult for me because it is the report of a defeat.
It happened in Slovenia in the summer of 2019, somewhere between Triglav National Park and the Bled area. For hours I had climbed and descended countless hairpin bends in this beautiful landscape and was gradually exhausted and about to take a break. After another bend I saw a small parking bay on the right side and at the same time noticed something wriggling in the left corner of my eye. How lucky I was able to stop here!
I got out and recognized the wriggling creature as a deer that was desperately trying to get up. When I tried to help it, it cried out in pain. Whoever had hit the poor animal was long gone, probably with a big dent in the car.
It was not possible to calm the animal down, nor could it be touched. After all, deer are flight animals and my attempts to help only increased his panic. Mowgli was raging in the car, but letting him out would have been foolish and dangerous. The spot where the deer lay was also dangerous because there was no hard shoulder and the mountainside rose up right at the edge of the road.
What should I do? Transport the animal somehow in the car and drive to a vet? It was Sunday… And how should that work with a dog in the car? To call the police? I didn’t cause the accident, but would you believe me? My car didn’t even have a scratch, so I really didn’t have to worry about that. But first I tried to stop one of the passing cars, but nobody reacted.
A helpful person
I got into my car, which was now filled with the smell of Mowgli’s fear, and tried to look up the police number in a reference book. A tractor with a wooden trailer came towards me.
I ran back onto the street as fast as I could and yelled, “Stop! Stop!” and ran after the tractor, waving his arms. To my great relief, he stopped and a young Slovenian boy who looked like a real outdoorsman jumped down, saw the deer and immediately understood what was going on.
Luckily he spoke some English. I explained how I found the deer and asked him to help me. Sheer gratitude welled up in me as he turned his train on the street and pulled it up behind my car. He took his cell phone and called – not with the police, but with a hunter.
Until he arrived, it was now important to carry the animal to the other, safer side of the street. But how? All attempts to touch it failed and earned me a few scratches. Then I remembered that I still had two ratchet straps in the car. With these we could fix the poor deer and then carry it over. We put it on the grass between the car and the tractor, as shady as possible, and waited.
“Why a hunter?” I wanted to know. The friendly Slovene explained to me that such accidents happened more often here and that this deer had an injured backbone and therefore no chance of survival.
We waited a long time. The sun was scorching hot and I stood half in the shade, half in the sun, the end of the ratchet strap in my hand, unable to move because I had to watch the deer. In between, it kept trying to get up with violent movements and slipped dangerously close to the abyss next to the parking bay. If it had fallen, it would have died in agony. So I kept pulling it back to the safe place in the shady grass by the strap still wrapped around its stomach. I was so sorry I had to be pretty bold about it.
I now took a closer look at the beautiful animal. It was a young roebuck with large, gentle eyes, a black, shiny nose, and long, very slender legs. I touched his hooves once and was surprised at how warm they felt. The fur was short and you could see some insect bites on his skin. His antlers were barely developed. Possibly his inexperience had made him carelessly jump out onto the street.
Now a car stopped. A young woman got out and saw the scene. She immediately got a bottle of water out of the car and poured a small puddle in front of the deer. The animal drank eagerly from it and I felt a little ashamed because I hadn’t come up with this obvious idea myself. The water drained away too quickly, so I offered my cupped hand for a drinking bowl. That worked quite well. At some point the roebuck’s thirst was quenched and the young woman got back into the car with her friends and drove away with them.
Keep waiting. Call again. Waiting. The Slovenian got impatient but stayed, which I give him credit for. We couldn’t talk much to each other because our language skills were too limited. However, the essentials could still be conveyed.
Here we stood with a shy creature whose world is incompatible with our modern life. From the depths of the forest it had ventured too close to the people. Now it will never be able to jump again because its hind legs were paralyzed. Even if there were a veterinary clinic here and the animal could be successfully operated on – would it survive the long rehabilitation? Would this really be the best?
the last minutes
Finally, after what felt like two hours, the hunter came accompanied by a woman. The helpful Slovenian who had stayed with me now said goodbye and was obviously happy to be able to hand over responsibility. The hunter kindly assured me that such accidents happened more often and the hunters would then know what to do. He photographed the animal from different angles. I felt it was disrespectful to the poor accident victim to take my own photos. But the hunter was factual in his documentation. His companion looked at the roebuck with pity and repeatedly asked if he really couldn’t be saved. I supported her in this and asked for a veterinary clinic. The hunter made me understand how far-fetched this plan was. After all, we were not in a big city here, but in the middle of the Slovenian mountains.
He went to the car to get his gun, thanked me for my help, and said goodbye, which meant something like, “Please drive on now.” I would have stayed until the end, but then I was relieved not to have had to witness the fatal shot.
When I said goodbye to the young roebuck, he raised his head and looked openly at the hunter. It was as if he wanted to signal that he was ready now.
I got into my car and continued my journey. Not everything can be fixed and some events have final consequences.