It’s the time of year for deer testosterone to kick in, and wildlife officials urge the human population not to treat that scenario lightly.
“I know people get tired of hearing us say the same old thing year after year, but, really, when they [male deer] get to chasing females, anything can happen,” Kentucky Fish and Wildlife deer biologist David Yancy said.
“I want to try to dispel the idea that many people have – they think that the reason the deer run across the road in November is because they get pushed out into the road by hunters. But that’s not true. Even if there was no deer hunting, this would still happen, because the deer breeding season peaks in the fall.”
What that could mean for drivers, Yancy said, is the risk of death.
Kentucky State Police reports that 1.6 million drivers collide with deer each year in the United States, with 150 deaths in 2012 and $3.6 billion in vehicle damage.
Kentucky averages about 3,000 deer collisions per year, and KSP’s data shows that, in 5-year totals by county from 2008 to 2012, Shelby County had 258 deer collisions.
Boone had the most with 760, and Monroe had the least, with 0. Twenty-one counties had 200 or more, and four were in single digits.
That high figure shows that Shelby is still a Zone 1 area in terms of deer population – the highest designation it is possible to attain – with more than 30 deer within square mile.
Zone 2 comprises 20 deer per square mile; Zone 3 has 10-19, and Zone 4 has less than 10.
Zone 2 is the most desirable, Yancy said, because there are enough deer for hunters but not so many that their numbers start to endanger the public with a lot of dashing across the roadways.
Yancy said that one reason that Shelby’s deer collisions are so high is because an interstate highway runs through the county, providing an avenue for bucks to pursue does through traffic traveling at high speeds.
“We think the counties that have the higher number of hits will be the same ones as usual, like Shelby, with the interstate running through them, and, or, a parkway, such as in Western Kentucky,” he said.
2 more weeks
The rut, as biologists call the deer mating season, is in full swing, and will continue for another two weeks.
“There are several factors that trigger the rut, but the main one is the declining hours of daylight in the fall, and that doesn’t really change from year to year,” Yancy said. “The three week period is going to be the same, from late October into the first week of November through mid-November.”
Shelby County Sheriff Mike Armstrong said that deputies have not reported many incidents of deer collisions this year or even see many deer yet.
“So far, we haven’t seen as many as usual, but I anticipate normal numbers,” he said.
But just because you haven’t seen many deer doesn’t mean one won’t jump out in front of your car when you least expect it, he said.
“We had two cruisers damaged last year by deer collisions, and my own family has been involved in three deer accidents in the last twenty-five years,” he said. “I even hit one myself one time in my pickup [truck].”
2nd season likely
Yancy said drivers need to be on alert well into December, especially during the hours surrounding dawn and dusk.
“There may be a second rut a month after the first if there are still does that weren’t bred,” he said, adding that’s why Kentucky’s muzzleloader season (Dec. 8-16) is timed to coincide with this late-rutting activity.
He advises also to look for other deer after one has crossed the road, because deer often travel together in small herds.
Remember: Don’t swerve
Armstrong said the important thing to remember if a deer does dart out in front of your car is not to swerve.
“People’s first reaction is to veer into the other lane, and that is the worst thing you can do,” he said. “You can hit another car or even lost control of your car and turn over.”
What is the alternative?
“The best thing to do is to try to keep your vehicle as straight as you can and get stopped as quickly as possible,” he said.
Also, a little preventative measure goes a long way, he said.
“Pay attention and keep watch on the sides of the road so there’s less chance of getting surprised,” he said. “Also, leave enough space between you and the car ahead of you that if it hits one, you won’t get caught up in it, too.”