Deer are shy and wary of humans — most of the time.
But not in the fall.
In autumn, deer are in their rut, or breeding season. They’re so interested in mating that they’re not looking where they’re going, which means auto accidents with deer are going to increase as daylight hours decrease.
The state’s Game Commission is advising motorists to slow down after sundown and before sunrise to reduce their risk of having a close encounter with a white-tailed deer.
Deer aren’t paying close attention to what’s going on around them during the fall breeding season, commonly referred to as the “rut,” the game commission stated in a recent news release.
Deer don’t seem to maintain the distance that typically keeps them from getting into harm’s way on the highways. Deer collisions are an annual occurrence that will continue through Thanksgiving week and begin to slow down in mid-December. With the end of daylight saving time, more motorists will be driving to and from work at the peak hours of deer activity: dawn and dusk. Such accidents have been on the rise for years, according to a report by AAA Mid-Atlantic.
The auto club said deer-crash claims have jumped 10.6 percent in the past three years. Three Philadelphia-area counties top the Pennsylvania list of where those accidents occur: Chester, Bucks and Delaware counties. The New Jersey counties directly across from Philly — Camden, Gloucester and Burlington counties — see large numbers of deer-vehicle collisions.
In a report issued Oct. 7, AAA said eight people died in the 3,362 reportable accidents that involved deer in 2012. A reportable accident is one that involves death, injury or vehicle towing.
“Motorists need to be extra vigilant no matter what road they travel, but especially those on rural, wooded roads and during commuting times which coincides with high times of deer activity. If a deer-vehicle collision is unavoidable, don’t swerve out of your lane or lose control of your vehicle.” said Jenny M. Robinson, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Deer frequently travel in family groups and single file. Just because one has crossed, doesn’t mean the threat is over. Its crossing could be a signal that others may follow, which they sometimes do blindly.
Some bucks that are chasing does might follow closely; other times they pursue with their heads to the ground nosing a scent trail, according to the game commission..
“After tracking hundreds of radio-collared bucks, we know that most yearling bucks will be wandering away from the areas where they were born,” said Dr. Christopher Rosenberry, Game Commission Deer and Elk Section Supervisor. “These animals will travel four to five miles on average, but some may travel as far as 40 miles or more. Most of this movement occurs from mid-October through the breeding season in mid-November.”
Drivers who hit a deer with a vehicle are not required to report the accident to the commission. If the deer dies, only Pennsylvania residents may claim the carcass. To do so, they must call the commission’s region office representing the county where the accident occurred and an agency dispatcher will collect the information needed to provide a free permit number, which the caller should write down. A driver must call within 24 hours of taking possession of the deer.
Antlers from bucks killed in vehicle collisions must be turned over to the commission. Also, removing antlers from road-killed bucks along the side of the road is illegal.
If a deer is struck by a vehicle, but not killed, drivers should keep away because some deer may recover and move on. However, if a deer does not move on, or poses a public safety risk, drivers are encouraged to report the incident to a commission regional office or other local law enforcement agency.
To report a dead deer for removal from state roads, motorists can call the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation at 1-800-FIX-ROAD.
Here are some game commission tips for avoiding deer on the roadways:
• Don’t count on deer whistles or deer fences to deter deer from crossing roads in front of you. Stay alert.
• Watch for the reflection of deer eyes and for deer silhouettes on the shoulder of the road.
• Slow down in areas known to have a large deer population; where deer-crossing signs are posted; areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forestland; and whenever in forested areas between dusk and dawn.
• Deer do unpredictable things. Sometimes they stop in the middle of the road when crossing. Sometimes they cross and quickly re-cross back from where they came. Assume nothing. Slow down; blow your horn to urge the deer to leave the road. Stop if the deer stays on the road; don’t try to go around it. ••
In Pennsylvania, between 2010 and the end of 2012, there was a 10.6 percent increase in the number of AAA auto insurance claims in which an animal was struck by a vehicle.
In New Jersey, between 2010 and the end of 2012, there was a 37.4 percent increase in the number of claims in which an animal was struck by a vehicle.
In Delaware, between 2010 and the end of 2012, there was a 26.3 percent increase in the number of claims in which an animal was struck by a vehicle.
Source: AAA Mid-Atlantic