Accidents involving deer on the rise in Kansas

Kansas hit a 10-year high for deer-related crashes in 2018, with Sedgwick County reporting the most accidents.

The year saw 10,734 deer-related wrecks in Kansas which accounted for 16.5 percent of total wrecks for the year, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation. Data through Oct. 30 show 7,006 deer-related wrecks.

November, when the peak mating season for deer is in full swing, is the most dangerous month for vehicle/deer crashes.

An increase in the deer population is one reason for the 10-year high of deer-related crashes, according to Levi Jaster, big game program coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism. An outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease dwindled the population in eastern Kansas starting in 2008. He said the disease, also called Bluetongue, killed off deer until 2013, which is when KDOT shows a low in deer-related wrecks over the past 10 years.

It’s started to creep back ever since.

Sedgwick County had the most deer-related wrecks reporting 418 in 2018 and 29 injuries. Neighboring Butler County had the second-highest number of deer-related wrecks with 384 and the fifth-highest number of injuries at 18.

Johnson County had the third most wrecks with 361 and the second-most injuries at 23. Kansas had three fatalities in 2018 from wrecks involving deer..

Rush County, however, had the most wrecks per miles driven.

Decreased daylight in the fall causes hormonal changes in does and bucks.

Instead of methodically traipsing through the woods, mature bucks will cover longer distances chasing does and fighting off any buck trying to do the same.

Bucks double their usual one to two square mile roaming area during the rut, Jaster said.

Does also become more active searching for food to prepare their bodies for the winter. But they generally stick to the same area and in maternal herds.

So drivers should be aware: if you see one, assume there’s more.

The Kansas Highway Patrol suggests actually hitting the deer instead of swerving to avoid it.

“If you are unfortunate enough to have a deer enter the highway in front of your car, it is best to hit the animal and not swerve to avoid it,” KHP’s Lt. Adam Winters said in a news release. “Often, we find more serious crashes occur when you swerve to miss the deer, potentially losing control of your vehicle, leaving the road or veering into oncoming traffic.”

The Department of Transportation offers these tips for drivers:

Be more watchful at dusk and dawn

Heed deer sign warnings since those are known crossing areas

Set headlights to bright when there is no oncoming traffic

Use a long horn blast to frighten deer from the vehicle

If you hit a deer, the best idea is to stay in the vehicle, with the seat belt buckled and with the hazard lights on. Try to drive the vehicle to the shoulder, if possible. Do not try to remove the deer and tell 911 if your vehicle is still in the road, according to the KHP.

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Michael Stavola covers breaking news at The Wichita Eagle. He’s won a national and several state awards during his five years of working at newspapers in Kansas. He plans to finish his MBA at Wichita State University in spring 2020. Michael likes to exercise, hunt and spend time with his wife and their dog, Marley.