A deer in the forest is one thing, a deer down the main drag is another.
Australia's problem with these elegant ruminants is finally being discussed as easily shocked urbanites are shocked to find them in places they shouldn't be, which, strictly speaking, is anywhere on this continent or the one 6000km to its south.
CCTV footage of deer taking detours down rat-runs is becoming more and more common. Recent encounters include a buck in a Rockhampton Bunnings car park and another trip-trapping through the streets of Fitzroy.
Meanwhile, the whole culling debate has been reignited after a deer menaced two nude bathers at a beach in a national park near Sydney.
It's a divisive topic. On the one hand, nudists in their current numbers are unsustainable, but, on the other, they're such an iconic species.
It's always fun (or just annoying) for people in the regions to watch city folk in a sudden lather over an issue we've been aware of for years.
Anyone with even a passing relationship with the bush, especially in the eastern states, knows deer, introduced in the 19th century, are breeding up and on the move. Ecologists warn of a "slow-moving plague" as a Senate inquiry investigates the impact of feral pests on our fragile environment.
Over the past couple of decades, my commute - often in darkness - has become punctuated by at least three of the six species of deer getting a hoof-hold in the Australian landscape.
Legend has it some of them descend from a farm whose owner went bust and let their wily livestock loose in a wild free of predators (except for roaming dogs, which is a whole other issue).
These days, as I straddle the divide, it's not unusual to whiz past more deer than kangaroo. Thankfully, the placental pedestrians aren't as flighty as marsupials and don't tend to run directly at your vehicle when startled. They will, however, quite happily occupy the middle of the road, knowing it's the best place to cut a romantic pose under moonlight.
One night, at the bottom of the ranges, I was forced into a prolonged stop as two young does remained unmoved in front of the car. Eventually they folded back into the woods as deer do, and, as I watched these bewitching examples of the sigil which rears so majestically on my clan's crest, I was visited upon by even more majestic visions of our freezer bursting with butchered venison.
It was all I could do to not run the animals down, strap their carcasses to the bonnet like that cadre of method actors does with Robert De Niro's '59 Caddy in The Deer Hunter and drive home to wake the family with triumphant honks of the horn.
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I came to my senses, of course. I'm not that brutal (also, my wife would've left me in worse shape than Christopher Walken in a red bandana had I returned in a mobile Bambi abattoir) and I drove away from the semi-magical moment feeling a little spaced out, as if time had stopped while those two does and I locked eyes.
The ecotone tends to have this effect.
Biologically, the ecotone is the place where two communities meet, where worlds collide; mangroves, marshlands, grasslands, riverbanks.
Philosophically, an ecotone might be the transit lounge on our way from one existence to the next.
Pop culture is lousy with the concept. A seminal episode of the wonderful TV series about family and death, Six Feet Under, is titled Ecotone; Damon Lindelof did it very well in Lost, then, with Tom Perrotta, even better with The Leftovers; Albert Brooks riffs on the ecotone in his 1991 film Defending Your Life and, 30 years later, critics are falling over themselves in praise of the upcoming Nine Days. Even Pixar had a couple of cracks with Coco and Soul.
In literature, we can start down low with Dante's Inferno and move all the way up to Mike McCormack's Solar Bones (or Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones).
For many of us who use dangerously high doses of consumerism, social media, sport and reality TV to numb ourselves against such weighty issues as limbo, the ecotone most familiar is the one where mankind butts against the natural world and it's within this prism we can be left a little rattled.
It's while driving, this collision between the human and animal world is brought into sharp, surreal and sometimes, expensive, relief. All manner of beast wander in front of our halogens. At 100km/h, we swerve and brake and gulp and double-take; shock, trauma, regret, elation.
We all know about the pandemic-led pressures on humanity and it will be fascinating to see what impact our lockdowns will have on our environment, especially roadkill.
It may be good news, at least in the short term.
In March and April of last year, Wildlife Victoria received 714 reports of animals hit by vehicles. Across the corresponding months in 2019, the number was about 1200.
Online journal Medical News Today reports on a study published in March this year which found roadkill of Polish hedgehogs had dropped by more than 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic years. Similar statistics are being tallied for different species across a number of other European jurisdictions.
On the flipside, the same publication says the pandemic may boost feral animal numbers because restrictions on our movements are stymieing our ability to get out and stop them.
There is so much more to be justifiably worried about amid this awful virus than fawns, fauna and flora, but communing with Australia's unique environment has been one of our go-to balms during the crisis, proving how important the bush remains to us all.
I don't want to run down a deer anymore than a fox, a cat, a rabbit or even a mouse (OK, I will if I have to), but ever since the rains arrived to repair the land after the fires, numbers of these invasive creatures seem to be booming under my own anecdotal headlights.
Hopefully, when we're all fully armed against coronavirus, we'll turn our attention to those dinky-di locals who deserve a leg-up as they compete in the increasingly crowded ecotone.
The nudists, however, are on their own.
- B.R. Doherty is a regular columnist