Beware of darting deer

Deer col­li­sions: Car ac­ci­dents with white-tailed deer (pic­tured above) are more com­mon dur­ing the au­tumn breed­ing sea­son. PHOTO COUR­TESY OF WIKI­ME­DIA

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. ••

Sad stat­ist­ics

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

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