It’s deer season. It’s the time when hunters take to the woods in hopes of bagging a deer to have venison for the holiday table. It’s also the time when deer and autos meet far too often.
Deer movement peaks in late October and continues through the first part of December. During this time, the deer rut or annual mating season takes place for whitetail deer, and it ‘s also the time some deer are on the move when hunters are in the woods.
Deer-auto accidents are expected to continue to increase. Deer populations are growing in many areas, and their habitats are being displaced by urban sprawl. Some state fish and game officials also have modified bag limits in an effort to manage the size of deer herds.
Each fall, I write about the deer-auto accident problem as a reminder to folks to drive with caution. Not only are the accidents expensive, they can prove fatal.
The folks at State Farm insurance report about 2.3 million deer-auto accidents in a two year period. West Virginia leads the nation with about one mishap for every 42 motorists, while Indiana drivers experience one crash for each 160 drivers.
Over my lifetime, I’ve killed more deer with my autos or trucks than I have with a weapon. While I have trouble attracting them in the woods, I don’t seem to have any problem attracting them on the highways. My problem is just the opposite.
I thought i (we, including my wife Phyllis) might have a record for deer road kills. As I recall, we have 13. Fortunately, we’ve had no recent mishaps, and fortunately, we’ve never had any injuries.
Our 13, however, is far from a record. I read where Mark Burdick of Westfield, Pennsylvania, collided with 21 of the critters iduring a 19-year time frame -- with his car and a variety of other vehicles.
From October through December, most of the breeding among white-tailed deer takes place. For motorists, though, it is November when drivers should be especially cautious to avoid colliding with love-sick deer.
The nature of whitetails is for a buck to chase and follow various does until the doe permits breeding to occur. Breeding season is the time when deer movement is greater than any other period of the year. As a result, drivers are more likely to see and encounter deer on or near roads.
Early morning and evening the deer also are more active than mid-day. This also corresponds to the time of day when human vision is the worst. So what happens, is drivers get right up on the animals before they see them, and reaction time is cut down some during those low-light periods."
This time of year you have to "expect the unexpected." City highways or lonely back roads, it doesn't matter. There's not a lot you can do other than keep your eyes open and slow down when you see one. Deer have a nasty habit of waiting until you get right up on them before they run in front of the car.
If they're standing on the side of the road, don't expect them to stay there. They'll dart out there at the last second. And where there is one, there is usually more. Just because one passes across in front of you, you better be looking for that second and third one, too. I’ve learned the hard way--with damaged fenders and grills that it is the deer you didn’t see that you hit.
Motorists need to stay alert and remain patient while nature runs it course, and by using a little extra caution and any luck, hopefully your vehicle won’t have to spend a week at the repair shop.