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HILLSVILLE — Deer jumping over the side of the Howlett Street bridge, possibly fleeing from traffic, have been plummeting to their death right onto the U.S. 58 bypass below, according to Hillsville Police Chief Steve Williams.
The 60-foot fall is fatal to the deer, and Williams also worries what could happen to the people in vehicles that happen to be below Howlett Street.
"I believe this makes a total of eight deer that have jumped to their death from that bridge," he said in his written report to Hillsville Town Council last Monday.
The two deer that jumped the week before fell right into the roadway, he added. It would have caused major damage if they had struck a vehicle.
Williams told council members at the meeting that he brought up the matter with both Branch Highways and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
A fence wasn't a part of the work that Branch was contracted for, the chief reported.
"Yesterday I talked to Dan Huff, who is our local rep for VDOT, and I think we're all in agreement that something needs to be done," he said to the council. "We know it's a problem.
"Something needs to be done before someone is hurt or worse."
The chief planned to send VDOT the photographs taken of the last two deer that landed in the road.
"They're going to look and see if they can come up with some emergency funding to actually put a catch fence on that bridge to keep that from happening," Williams reported. "Luckily, right now there's not a lot of traffic [on the bypass below]."
But whenever he's driving on the bypass now, the chief said he looks up to see if there's anything on the bridge.
He promised to keep town council apprised of the situation.
VDOT officials have recently undertaken the preparation to install the safety fence on Howlett Street, said Heidi Underwood, VDOT spokeswoman, last week.
"We are just in the beginning stages of working with the contractor to get it installed," she said.
Officials hope to get the 900 feet of nine-foot tall fence installed by this spring.
"We're hoping to move forward with it really quickly," she said.