This time I didn’t miss.
I am actually rather surprised it had not happened to me before. Given the number of times I have dodged animals along Saddle Road. Pigs, sheep, mongoose, feral cats, francolins, quail… I had hit a turkey a few years back, but this was my first encounter with a larger animal.
I really prefer to avoid killing, but luck was not with me or the poor mouflon sheep this time.
It came into the headlights from the side at a full run, I had no real chance of avoiding the collision. Fortunately it did not hit square on, as it was a fairly big ram. It struck a glancing blow under the passenger side headlight, with a dull thud I can still remember vividly.
The results were pretty ugly, bits of sheep across the road, blood and guts sprayed down the side of the vehicle. What was left of the unfortunate ram was left wrapped around a fencepost, thrown well clear of the collision. Yes, I have a photo. No, I am not posting it here. It is rather gory.
I did have one bit of luck, there was no critical damage, allowing me to continue on to headquarters in the middle of the night. I was a bit concerned when I found fluid leaking from under the vehicle, but it didn’t look yellow enough to be antifreeze. Further inspection showed it to be wiper fluid, the reservoir is just above the wheel and had taken a hit. In my flashlight beam it was slowly draining onto the road.
I inspected the tire, the brake line and everything else in the impact zone before continuing my journey. As I pulled out there was a chime and a message in the dash… “Wiper Fluid Low”… as if I was worried about wiper fluid!
Mike, our company mechanic, places the damage at about $4k in a quick guess. I suspect he is about right. Given the size of the ram and the speed I am really surprised it was not worse. I did do Mike a favor, I hosed the vehicle down before leaving it parked it in front of our little shop. With the contents of the sheep all down the side, it was pretty rank!
I always feel bad about killing a wild animal like this. My only solace is that feral mouflon are a species that represent a problem, with a population that is growing to the point it is damaging the mountain. I recall a few years ago when sighting sheep was a rare occurrence along Saddle Road, for the last year it has been difficult not to see them, with large herds a common sight.
I am not the first to hit a sheep in an observatory vehicle lately. This will not save me from the inevitable ribbing I will receive. There will be jokes, and I will just have to laugh along.