Drivers can hit a deer crossing a highway or street at any time of year, but October and November are the peak months for deer-vehicle accidents.
Migrating birds, colorful leaves and cooler temperatures are some of the things people connect with autumn in Missouri. Everyone who plans to get in a car and drive somewhere in the weeks ahead needs to remember another well-known occurrence associated with fall in Missouri – deer crossing highways.
Drivers can hit a deer crossing a highway or street at any time of year, but October and November are the peak months for deer-vehicle accidents. The primary reason for this increase in deer/vehicle accidents at this time of year is that fall is the peak time of the deer mating season – commonly call the rut. Along with the mating activity, deer are also feeding heavily at this time year. In addition to supplying energy for mating activities, this increased eating is an instinctual reaction to the oncoming winter – fatten up now because food sources will be leaner in winter.
Put all this together and it means there is a lot of deer movement at this time of year and part of that movement takes place across roads throughout Missouri. While many people may equate deer running across highways to something that only happens in rural areas where roads run through forests and fields, it’s important to point out this is an urban thing, too. Deer have adapted very well to city habitats and, as a result, seeing a deer bolt across a street in a heavily urbanized area is a common sight in the fall.
The height of deer activity occurs at dawn and dusk. This adds to the risk for a driver – these are low-light times of day when deer are not as easily seen as they are at mid-day when the sun is high and bright.
There are many different types of landscapes (forest, crop field, golf course, city park, etc.) that deer can inhabit, but the same piece of driving advice applies to all these situations – be careful. At night, when possible, drive with high-beam lights on (except, of course, when doing so would impair the vision of oncoming drivers). This will increase your field of vision.
If you see a deer on the road, use your horn or your brakes, but don’t swerve out of your lane to avoid the animal. Swerving may put you in the path of oncoming traffic or onto off-road terrain that may do more damage to your vehicle and to you than hitting the deer would have. And, of course, be sure you’re wearing your seat belt. Studies have shown wearing seat belts reduce the chances of risk of fatal injury substantially so buckling up is always a good idea.
As your scanning the road in front of you, watch for deer just off the road and slow down when you see one. Also, if you see one deer cross the road in front of you, be mindful that another deer may be following the one you saw.
More information about deer, deer hunting and other upcoming seasons and events can be found at mdc.mo.gov.
Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For more information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.