I had only a single thought just before striking a moose on the western edge of Terra Nova National Park Sunday evening — if it goes through the windshield, I’m dead.
I didn’t see the moose until it was immediately in front of me, meters away.
It was as if my brain took a snapshot of the second before impact: I took in with absolute clarity how the moose didn’t have antlers; how the animal was almost as dark as the highway itself; and how it had a huge belly. “Moose must be eating well these days,” I thought.
I was driving between 75 and 80 kilometers an hour in mist and heavy fog and I didn’t see the moose until it was practically in my face.
The highway was clear.
Then there was a moose.There was no time to swerve, barely time to hit the break.
The Jeep struck the moose broadside and the animal tumbled over the hood before summersalting over the windshield.
There was an Echo traveling behind me and the occupants — a mother, father and 17-year-old daughter heading home from a volleyball tournament in St. John’s — said the moose (a cow, weighing between 800 and 1,000 pounds) flew end over end.
(The family contacted me later to say they were "thankful my hearty Wrangler took the blow that our little Echo would have never.")
The highway behind me was covered in fur and moose feces.
The Jeep was also covered in fur, packed into the space between hood and grill like a grotesque frill.
The moose, which came to rest on some grass off the highway, tried to rise to its feet once before resting on its side and quickly fading away.
The shock only hit me today.
A friend said I must have a guardian angel watching down on me — I walked away without a scratch.
I said the angel wasn’t watching down on me so much as leaning with her back against the windshield, deflecting the moose away with her feet.
A Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer told me once how a pedestrian had been struck and killed by a car, and how the force of the impact drove the victim out of his boots.
I thought maybe the force of the impact had driven the moose out of its fur, which was everywhere.
A dozen or so vehicles pulled over at the scene to offer help, including two drivers who stayed with me outside in the rain until the RCMP arrived.
I couldn’t thank everyone enough.
The park warden told me there have been 18 moose incidents in Terra Nova since January — from serious collisions to a vehicle just grazing an animal.
The warden winched the moose aboard his truck and carted it off to be buried.
The officer at the scene said the provincial government’s moose detection systems that have been installed on the Trans Canada Highway (one near the Salmonier Line, 45-minute drive from St. John’s; the other just east of Grand Falls-Windsor in central Newfoundland) only work half the time.
One of the drivers who had stopped said he and his wife had driven past the moose-detection system in central Newfoundland a few days earlier and spotted two moose on the highway.
A flashing light is supposed to warn drivers of moose ahead.
Only it didn’t work — a bad Newfoundland joke.
Ironically, on Monday one of the news stories of the day was how the province is holding a series of public meetings to gather public input on a new moose management plan.
There’s controversy in that some say the focus should be on the long-term viability of the herd, while others say the focus should be on stretches of the highway where moose cause the greatest risk to the traveling public.
New Brunswick has installed a series of fences to cut down on moose-vehicle collisions.
The fences seem to work.
All I can say with certainly is that — even at 75 to 80 kilometers an hour — I was driving too fast to avoid the moose.
I should have been driving half the 100-kilometer speed limit.
And I knew better than to drive at night — only life got in the way of me leaving St. John’s earlier in the day.
Turned out that my life was almost taken away.
I’ll remember that next time.