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From  Issue
31 March 2002
Avoid Hitting Deer

From Merritt Clifton, editor,
ANIMAL PEOPLE. - anmlpepl@whidbey.com 

One morning last summer I came over a blind rise at an "S" curve on the paved road nearest to the dirt road where I live just in time to see a pregnant doe drop her fawn right in the middle of the road. She had obviously been startled--as I was--by a speeding car which had hurtled past me a few seconds earlier, going much faster than the road conditions there ever warrant. Someone with a small red pickup truck blocked the road while the doe ran into the brush and the fawn tottered to her feet and followed.

Jogging in the vicinity almost every day, I often saw the fawn nearby with her mother.

Tonight, with her spooked mother watching, I dragged the carcass of the fawn off the edge of the road to the brush, where the local crows and coyotes can safely clean her bones. She was killed within 10 feet of where she was born. Again someone was going much faster than the "S" curve and the dip down to the dirt road junction ever warrant. Add to that the wet pavement today, increasing stopping distance, and the now nine-month-old fawn never had a chance.

The fawn was traveling safely, however, as she always did--watching carefully to see if her mother got across the road before starting out herself. Perhaps the driver who killed her saw her mother cross, then assumed the way was clear and stepped on the gas.

As every driver should learn before ever getting behind the wheel of a car, 70% of all deer/car collisions involve the second deer in a doe/fawn pair. More than 100 drivers and their passengers die each year, along with 720,000 deer, in easily avoidable deer/car collisions.

The secrets to avoiding and surviving deer/car collisions, again, are:

1) If you see one deer, always look for another. Even bucks often travel with a buddy.

2) Deer respond to cars as they do to natural predators: they hide. They choose crossing points where drivers will have difficulty seeing them: in the middle of an "S" curve, at a dip, where brushy cover comes close to the traveled lanes at either side. (Deer paths are also natural superhighways for other wildlife, so always slow down and be careful at such places. The life you save might be your own.)

3) Deer are most likely to be in the road at twilight and dawn.

4) There is no time of year when it is safe to drive like a bat out of hell in deer habitat. However, more than half of all deer/car collisions occur in October and November. The rut (mating season) is one cause of this, but (in all states) the peak for collisions coincides more closely with the peak days for hunting than with the peak of rut. If you see hunters' vehicles parked by the road, therefore, watch for frightened deer running from gunfire, or hunters driving deer.

5) If you collide with a deer, duck. Driver fatalities tend to result from a deer coming through the windshield after having her legs knocked out from under her. The lower you are, the better-protected you are from this type of accident.

6) If you see a fresh deer carcass in the road or near the road, expect a grieving doe to be nearby. She will typically remain close for six to eight hours, or until coyotes arrive to chase her off.

Contact me for other roadkill avoidance tips at <anmlpepl@whidbey.com>. 

Thank you,

Merritt Clifton
Editor, ANIMAL PEOPLE
P.O. Box 960
Clinton, WA 98236

Telephone: 360-579-2505
Fax: 360-579-2575
E-mail: anmlpepl@whidbey.com
Web: www.animalpeoplenews.org 

[ANIMAL PEOPLE is the leading independent newspaper providing original investigative coverage of animal protection worldwide, founded in 1992. Our readership of 30,000-plus includes the decision-makers at more than 9,000 animal protection organizations. We have no alignment or affiliation with any other entity.]

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