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Give Deer a Brake This Week

There may be more deer near roadways in the next few weeks, especially around dawn and dusk.

Oh deer, it's mating season again for what may be America's most dangerous animal—deer—and that means there's a greater risk that the animals may get hit by motorists.

This week is "Give Wildlife a Brake Week" and the Humane Society of the United States is reminding drivers to slow down and be aware of wildlife activity as days get shorter and the end of Daylight Savings Time approaches. 

Vehicle-animal collisions can cause injury, death and car damage, and October through December is the worst time of year in many states for run-ins with deer. There are about 1.5 million car collisions with deer each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The upside? California didn't make the list of the worst states for deer collisions.

The crashes result in $1 billion in vehicle damage, about 150 human fatalities, and over 10,000 personal injuries, and might actually be higher because there's no consistent way to report the collisions.

RELATED COVERAGE:

The next several weeks mark the peak of deer-car crashes. This is because late October through early December is mating season for North American deer, Rob Found, a university biologist, told USA Today in this article.

Found said "Males are so focused on mating, they're not thinking straight. They're looking for mates and for other males to fight."

Tips to reduce the likelihood of a crash, courtesy the Humane Society of the United States.

  • Follow speed limits. Many animals are hit simply because people drive too fast to avoid them. This makes the roads safer for other drivers and pedestrians, too.
  • Watch for wildlife in and near the road at dawn, dusk, and in the first few hours after darkness. Keep in mind that where there is one animal, there are probably others—young animals following their mother or male animals pursuing a female.
  • Be especially cautious on two-lane roads bordered by woods or fields, or where streams cross under roads. Most animal/vehicle collisions occur on these roads. Slow down to 45 mph or less.
  • Scan the road as you drive, watching the edges for wildlife about to cross. This will also make you more aware of other hazards such as bicyclists, children at play, and slowly moving vehicles. 
  • Don’t throw trash out car windows. Discarded food pollutes the environment and creates a hazard by attracting wildlife to the roads. 
  • Use your high beams whenever possible.
  • Lower your dashboard lights slightly. You'll be more likely to see your headlights reflected in the eyes of animals in time to brake.

How to help injured animals:  

  • Do not put your own safety at risk. Unless you can move the animal from the road in absolute safety, do not attempt to do so. Use your hazard lights or emergency road flares to warn oncoming traffic of the injured animal. Never attempt to handle a large animal, like a deer, or one that could give a serious bite, like a raccoon.
  • Call someone with the proper training and equipment. When you need assistance, call the non-emergency number of the local police department (program the phone number into your cell phone right now so you have it when you need it) and describe the animal's location. Emphasize that the injured animal is a traffic hazard to help ensure that someone will come quickly. Stay in the area until help arrives.
  • Use heavy gloves to protect yourself or avoid direct handling if you try to rescue a small animal yourself. Remember that the animal doesn't know you are trying to help and may bite or scratch in self-defense. An old towel is helpful if you need to move an injured animal.
  • Gently coax or place the animal into a cardboard box and transport him/her to an animal shelter, wildlife rehabilitator, or a receptive veterinarian. If there is a delay, keep the animal in a dark, warm, quiet place to minimize fear and stress.
  • If you accidentally kill an animal, try to move the animal off the road—but only if you can do so in complete safety. Otherwise, report the location of the animal's body to the local police department, and it will arrange for removal. This will prevent scavengers from being attracted onto the road and eliminate a potential traffic hazard.
Cathy P October 30, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Why don't they just move the deer crossing signs off the roads. That way they will never cross the roads and hit the cars. Duh!
Mona Cayabyab October 30, 2012 at 10:03 PM
I have already seen so many deer bodies along Hwy 17. :( Mostly males as they are big and have horns. I think this is the most I've seen in such a short period of time. Seems like 1 to 2 per week since September. So sad. Poor things...
Watzon McWats October 30, 2012 at 10:08 PM
I wouldn't try to move a "dead" deer off the road period unless you really know what you're looking at. Deer sometimes look dead following trauma, but aren't, and generally don't react well to folks touching them. Even deer without horns can hoof you up pretty dern bad when scared.
Hawkins October 30, 2012 at 10:21 PM
and YOU might become roadkill in the process!!!

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