Des O'Donovan Agent of Change

For my “ You and the World “ project I choose to focus on the issue of animal vehicle collisions. After researching this topic I realized that there is a major issue with vehicle collisions involving deer. I live near Wissahickon Valley Park, and in the park their have been deer that have been hit by cars. I decided to focus my issue on local deer collisions. 

On a particular road near my house their have been some collisions with deer. Wissahickon Avenue runs between Carpenter’s Woods and the rest of the Wissahickon. Many animals, including deer, have to cross this road. The road is very busy, and the cars move very fast. Occasional collisions with wildlife are almost inevitable. Maybe if people knew about the risk of hitting deer, they would be more careful, thus reducing the number of collisions.

So, for my agent of change part I was able to get a deer crossing sign posted on Wissahickon Avenue, so that drivers will know to watch out for deer. The sign isn’t actually posted yet, it will take a while before the Streets Department manages to get it put up, but I do have verification that the sign will be posted.

It may seem like getting a sign posted is a pretty easy task. But trust me it’s not. Putting the sign up myself would be illegal, so I had to request it from the Streets Department. The problem is that making a request is not enough. In order for the sign to be posted I needed to get other people to request the sign. I put up signs around West Mount Airy and on the bulletin boards in the park telling people to go the Philadelphia Streets Department website, and request that a deer crossing sign be posted on Wissahickon Avenue. 

Presentation on my Process:

I also raised awareness of my issue by requesting that people go to the Streets department website, and report deer road-kill incident, on the Friends of Carpenter’s Woods website. People saw my signs and I got some publicity. Someone saw my sign and promoted my cause in the Chestnut Hill local newsletter, and in January, while I was photographing a dead female deer on Emlen Street, Brian Rudnick interviewed me about my project, and wrote about it on his blog. Also Barry A. Bessler, Chief of Staff

Office of the 1st Deputy Commissioner, Parks & Facilities Philadelphia Parks & Recreation requested that the sign be posted to the streets department. He also pointed out to them that there are deer vehicle collisions that occur on Allen's Lane, which is near Wissahickon Avenue.

Chestnut Hill Local Article Rudnick Article:

I needed to do a lot of things in order to get this to happen. The first step in getting this done was to request that the sign be posted on Wissahickon Ave. to the Philadelphia Streets Department. I also needed to write to Cindy Bass from City Council.  

In order for a deer crossing sign to be posted in an area, the area needs to be declared a deer crossing area. For that to happen, there have to be reported incidents of deer being killed in said area. The problem I ran into was that there weren’t any reported incidents. This was annoying because I have seen four deer killed by cars on Wissahickon Avenue in the past two years. 

1. A six-seven month old female fawn struck by a car, found dead ten yards from the road in  October of 2011. Her stomach was swollen due to the impact.

2. A full grown, eight point male found dead one hundred yards from the road in November 2011

3. A doe found dead 100 feet from Wissahickon Avenue in December 2012.

4. A young male with his antlers cut off (featured in photo) found on the edge of Wissahickon Avenue on January 3, 2013

There was also an article about a deer that was hit by a car on Wissahickon Avenue after being chased by a dog, which I put in my first two blog posts, in the Friends of the Wisshickon Newsletter. I sent this, along with the other incidents I had seen, to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. I also asked others to report any incidents they might have seen. I contacted David Dannenberg, who is on the Board of the Friends of the Wissahickon. He lives near Wissahickon Avenue and he had some incidents to report himself. 

Click here to read about them

The main way that I wanted to go about solving this problem was to get a deer crossing sign posted, and to get people to watch out for deer. But as you can see by some of David Dannenbeg’s incident reports, and the article in the Friends of the Wissahickon Newsletter, off-leash dogs chasing deer across roads, and into oncoming vehicles is also causing these collisions. It is required by law that dogs remain on leash in Fairmount Park. This to insure the safety of people, dogs, and wildlife. Sadly this rule is often broken by dog walkers, causing dogs to harm wildlife. Some of theses collisions could be prevented if dog owners kept their dogs on leashes.  

I received email conformation from Job Itzkowitz that the deer crossing sign will be posted. It will take a while for it to be posted because these kinds of things take a while, but it will happen. This sign will hopefully reduce the amount of deer getting hit by cars on Wissahickon Avenue, and make Carpenter’s Woods a safer place for wildlife. Deer are abundant in Fairmount Park, and we have to learn to co-exist with them. Despite the fact that there is an over population of them, and they destroy gardens, demolish plant species, and spread lyme disease (which I have gotten twice) I think that deer are beautiful, peaceful animals that deserve to be protected from vehicles, as do all other species of wildlife.

This project has shown me that getting change to happen is a challenge. When I first started my Agent of Change I thought that it was going to be pretty easy. But it turned out that I had to get a lot of publicity and support to make this happen. I think I greatly benefitted my community by getting this necessary sign posted, and showing others that this is a major local issue. I made an impact on the rivers in my neighborhood and the local wildlife. This project was largely an individual project, buy I couldn’t have done it without the support of The Friends of the Wissahickon, the Friends of Carpenter’s Woods, from the Philadelphia Streets Department, City Councilperson Cindy Bass, The Pennsylvania Game Commission, Brian Rudnick, and my Mom and her connections with the Friends of the Wissahickon, and the help of my Community, and their willingness to take action on this issue. Thank you.

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