Driven by the frenzy of breeding season, deer are coming out of the woods.
From early fall into deep winter, bucks have two things on their minds: breeding and eating — the latter for energy to breed. Normally reclusive, whitetail bucks are out on the prowl. Searching for mates, they leave their thicket lairs and cross open meadows, lawns — and busy roads.
That’s where deer, humans and vehicles meet.
Cars and deer meet in as many as a million collisions each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those accidents cost 200 human lives, 10,000 personal injuries and about $1 billion in vehicle damage.
How many deer die is uncounted, but the evidence is mounting alongside our roads.
Deer are native to Maryland. In 300 years of Euro settlement, they’d been hunted to near extinction. Now they’re back, numbering about a quarter million statewide. Whether we live in country, town or suburbs, they’re our neighbors.
Already cars banged up in collisions with deer are pulling into Sisk Auto Body in Owings. A morning last week brought in three; one, a 2004 Honda Pilot SUV, racked up $5,000 in deer damage.
Bucks weigh from 130 to 300 pounds and does 90 to 200 pounds, so that’s a lot of weight to come crashing into your vehicle.
“An increase in deer-related collisions is normal this time of year,” said second-generation Sisk owner Muffy Revell.
“If you hit the deer, it’s not good for your car, but it’s good for your insurance rates,” Revell said. Insurance companies label hitting a deer under comprehensive coverage, which doesn’t raise your rate. But if you swerve and hit a tree, it’s considered a collision and your rates will likely increase.
Vehicle collisions with animals spike in frequency from October through December, Allstate Auto Insurance reports. Thirty-eight percent of collisions occur in the last three months of the year, with more than 13,000 recorded animal strikes in the month of November. The average cost of a vehicle collision with an animal is $2,800.
In addition to rutting season, turning our clocks back the first Sunday in November sends more deer our way.
As we change our clocks from Daylight Savings Time, rush hour for most commuters falls during the same hours when whitetail deer are most active.
So keep these tips in mind:
Deer are most active at dawn and dusk.
Watch for deer where roads pass through wooded or rural areas. Deer crossing signs are posted for a reason.
As you drive, scan the sides of the roads for the eye shine of deer.
Deer usually travel in groups. If you see one deer cross the road, slow down and use caution; more deer are likely to follow.