Keep an eye out: it's peak time for deer-vehicle collisions

10/26/2011 12:00 AM

10/26/2011 9:08 PM

At no time are the odds higher for deer-vehicle collisions than for about the next four to six weeks.

"It's an annual thing that towards the end of October we start seeing the number of accidents rise," said Mike Miller, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism information chief. "It usually peaks around the 18th to 20th of November, but we'll still have accidents into the end of the month."

Miller said around 600 accidents per day can occur at peak times.

The Kansas Department of Transportation said 9,109 deer-vehicle collisions were reported in 2010. That's about on par with most years, though Kansas has had about 10,000 accidents some years.

Miller said the annual breeding season, called the "rut," deserves much of the blame. It's a time of increased movement of all kinds of deer.

Many of the road kills are fawns just a few months old.

Chased away by the doe or an attending buck, the young deer are on their own for the first time and inexperienced with things like roads and vehicles.

Bucks routinely pursue does for long distances and times, trying to get her body temperature higher so she'll come into estrous sooner. The mad dash to escape often puts does in front of vehicles.

Even old, experienced bucks often lose their normal caution.

"They get so focused on what they're doing, sometimes bucks just run right into the side of a car," Miller said. "It's like they can't even see that it's there."

Though deer can be active all day during the rut, Miller said problems arise when rush hours coincide for deer and drivers.

"When standard time goes into effect, people are often coming home right at dusk," Miller said. "That's when deer are also very active, and it leads to a lot of accidents."

Last year Sedgwick County led the state with 391 deer-vehicle collisions. Johnson County had 346 accidents and Butler County 287.

Miller attributed the figures to the counties being highly populated with drivers.

In some rural counties, deer-vehicle accidents make up half of all collisions or more.

Miller said that's because traffic is so light in those remote areas, chances of colliding with another vehicle are rare.

According to a report released last year by State Farm, Kansas is near the middle of the pack when it comes to the probability of hitting a deer.

The national average was 1 in 183. Kansas' odds were 1 in 172.

West Virginia had the highest odds of a deer-vehicle collision at 1 in 42. Iowa was next at 1 in 67.

Hawaii had the lowest odds at 1 in 13,011. Several kinds of deer have been introduced to the islands.

Wildlife and Parks and the Department of Transportation offer the following tips to avoid deer-vehicle collisions:

* Don't swerve to avoid hitting a deer — the most serious accidents occur when motorists swerve and collide with another vehicle or leave the road and hit an obstacle.

* Watch for more than one deer. If one crosses the road, another may follow, especially if it's a buck chasing a doe.

* Reduce speed when passing through good deer habitat, including wooded areas, golf courses and near creeks and rivers. Remember, many areas within towns now hold deer, too.

* Heed deer-crossing signs.

* Use bright lights and slow down whenever reflective eyes or movement are spotted.

* Always wear a seat belt.

* Be especially watchful at dawn and dusk.

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