Effect Measure

Dangerous deer valentines

When I think of what happens in November I think of elections, Thanksgiving, the first snowfall, the advent of winter. I don’t think about being killed by running into a deer. But November is apparently the most likely time for that to happen. And it happens to a couple of hundred people a year in the US:

In November, when it comes to avoiding deer collisions, it’s not the one you see crossing the road that’s likely to get you, according to a wildlife expert.

“It’s the one that’s chasing her,” said Dr. Billy Higginbotham, Texas AgriLife Extension Service fisheries and wildlife specialist.
Throughout the year, there’s always risk from collisions with deer on Texas highways, Higginbotham said. But deer behavior is more erratic during the peak of the breeding season, which is from Nov. 1 through December, depending upon which part of the state you live in.

“The doe may look both ways when she’s crossing the road, but the buck-in-love that’s chasing her may not,” he said. (ScienceDaily)

Since I know someone who was seriously injured when their car hit a moose, I wasn’t surprised you could be killed by hitting a deer. But I was really surprised by how often it happens. A recent report from the Highway Loss Data Institute, an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, says that in 2007 223 people were killed when their vehicle hit an animal on the road. Texas leads the nation with Wisconsin second, Pennsylvania third. The descriptive epidemiology of animal-vehicle collisions shows that the most common time is at the peak of the mating season followed by thedead of winter (January – February) when food is scarce and deer are more likely to hang out near the side of the road. Dawn and dusk are the peak times of day. The vehicles aren’t just cars. In fact half the fatalities involve people riding motorcycles.

Of course you aren’t likely to be killed when hitting a deer. Just injured or having your car totaled. And the faster you go, especially in rural areas, the higher the risk. And often the deer gets off scot free when the driver takes instinctive evasive action and runs off the road or into a tree.

So take heed. It’s November. And that horny buck isn’t watching you, he’s watching her.


  1. #1 Roger the Shrubber
    November 8, 2008

    Having lived in Centre [yes, English spelling] County in Pennsylvania, I’ve had my share of white tail encounters. Seasoned drivers know to go measurably slower during rutting season, especially when there are no vehicles close ahead. (Deer don’t dash between vehicles; it’s the lead vehicle, or the lone vehicle, that has the collision.) And we’d go especially slow around blind curves.

  2. #2 george.wiman
    November 8, 2008

    Wait… does Homeland Security know about this? If these figures are right, then since 1998, deer have killed almost as many people as terrorists have in this country. We need nationwide hysteria to save us from road-crossing ruminants!

  3. #3 caia
    November 8, 2008

    Huh. And here I thought it was hitting a moose that would kill you, and hitting a deer would kill a deer. (A family member struck and killed a deer once, and at her destination was asked why she hadn’t brought it with her.)

    But in the case motorcycle vs. deer, I can certainly see ending badly for the motorcylist.

  4. #4 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 8, 2008

    I’m not a hunter, but I am in favor of the Minnesota Deer hunting program. The state is overrun with deer. They run into the suburbs and on to the freeways. Wolves are in short supply, and the state has in past years fed deer in the wild. Cars and hunters are the last remaining check on their population.

  5. #5 gilmore
    November 8, 2008

    Dusk and Dawn are especially dangerous times.

  6. #6 neil
    November 8, 2008

    The road I take to work has about 11 miles of Sierra Foothills twists and turns in it.

    Over the past three weeks I have seen at least 20 live deer, and mabey 15 incidents of venison roadkill! One evening I wa in a close caravan of three cars about 10 carlengths apart, and the first swerved to avoid something. The second car didn’t budge. By the time I cleared the point where the first car swerved, I saw a four point buck turning away from the road to stare at me (glowing eyes in the headlights and barely visible body.) On the other side of the road was his quarry: she was frozen in our headlight train, staring back across the road..,

    On morning two weeks ago, as I left my house, I was stopped about 20 yards from my neighborhoods entrance by a polie officer, one hand on his side arm, and one hand flagging me down. I was the first in line, and rolled my window down to ask what was up, when he said, “look away, I don’t think you’re going to want to se this.”

    Just as he said that, his partner popped a 5.62 round into a struggling buck on the side of the road. I found out later he had been maimed earlier in the A.M. hours by a picjup truck and lay there struggling..,

    Yup, deer are a major hazzard here.

    I wonder aouut the vehicles and drivers who dispatched the other dozen or so deer I had seen since.., No word in the news if there have been any human injuries or fatalities.

    I think an improved deer hunting program to thin the herd is in order!

  7. #7 Mad Hussein LOLScientist, FCD
    November 9, 2008

    I live not far from Valley Forge National Park in PA. It’s rare not to see at least a half-dozen deer, often in small groups, when you drive through the park, but you rarely see a dead one (thanks to the park rangers).

    They’ve also invaded the suburbs big time. Once I saw a group of five munching on the rhododendrons in a friend’s back yard. A few years ago, a driver hit a large buck not far from where my parents live in western PA. The deer came through the windshield and the impact killed the driver as well as the deer.

    People scream bloody murder about “shooting Bambi!” whenever the state mentions the possibility of culling the herds, but I think it’s a good idea. IMO, being hit by cars and starvation due to overpopulation are crueler. I also think the state should sell the venison from culled deer and use the proceeds for habitat preservation. (I’d buy some. I like venison stew every once in a while.) But I doubt it’s going to happen any time soon. Too many people get too emotional about it. :-PPPPP

  8. #8 Cathie Currie
    November 9, 2008

    The lack of parsimony in a deer killing solution to automobile-deer collisions is astonishing. Obviously, very sophisticated human-deer pop stats modeling would be needed, but we could use an initial crude stats scenario: Let’s see — if we kill 50% of deer, we might get a 50% reduction in deer-automobile injuries? But what if the mating search range is subsequently increased? Mating range and human-deer population integration, are the root causes of the problem. So herd reduction would lead to an increase in mating range induced deer-car collisions. No good. Rethink. Actually, what we really want is 100% reduction in collisions, so let’s kill 100% of the deer. That’d do it.

    Why is it that policy debates are almost always framed as a dilemma? In many situations, a third, more effective and less destructive, option could be revealed if real problem solving effort was used. Deer-car collisions is a case in point.

    Deer have no evolutionary means to recognize that cars and roads are dangerous — sonic warning devices are available but little research has been done on the effectiveness of deer repellers in preventing deer-automobile collisions. See this link for a brief review: http://www.deer-departed.com/200710.html

    Annual 300 human fatalities, thousands of injuries — insurance payouts for deaths, injuries, car repairs — you’d think that the CDC and insurance companies would have done a meaningful study. You’d think, I’d think . . . they . . . aren’t interested??? Or has the NRA had a word with them . . . as in, why get rid of a good excuse for using guns?

    Even without adequate research, if you drive in deer country, it is probably wise to install a deer whistle on your car. And then drive defensively anyway. Air activated whistles are $5, and electronic versions are $60 — some research says that the air activated whistles are unreliable in producing sonic power so the electronic form might be worth the cost.

    Now if we’d only find some way to stop those danged pheasants from flying THROUGH cars with open windows – a perversly favorite flight path which has no obvious rational basis, e.g. mating.

  9. #9 Maureen Lycaon
    November 9, 2008

    Wonder if this happens more often with whitetails than with mule deer? It’s my understanding that the white-tailed deer has a longer, more obvious flight-and-chase sequence between the buck and the doe.

  10. #10 Holly
    November 9, 2008

    3 weeks ago, I had my most recent encounter with a white tail buck. It cost my insurance company $2500 to fix my Jeep and it only caught the buck at the right front corner.

    I work in law enforcement and I .hate. this time of year. We get at least 5 or 6 calls per week for car/deer crashes. In most cases the people are either not injured or have minor injuries but in one case the car hit the deer broadside, flipped it up over the hood then it crashed into the windshield where the legs ended up inside. The deer was NOT dead and since the woman in the vehicle was belted in, she couldn’t just duck and get out. She said it was a nerve wracking few minutes to find the release and get out of the car.

    I have said for years now, deer are large rodents. Kill them all, you will miss two and they will repopulate quickly.

  11. #11 Susan Och
    November 10, 2008

    If I hit one more deer, I’m going to take up bow hunting as a community service. Around here, the popular way to approach deer management is to keep the population up so that everyone who hunts has a decent chance of getting that trophy buck. It’s hard to get a doe permit, so there’s lots of does around making new deer. Here in Michigan there was a case of chronic wasting disease downstate, so they’ve outlawed hunting over a bait pile. I fear that there are not enough hunters with the time or skill to stalk a deer the old-fashioned way, so we will be seeing even more deer in the next few years.

    You just have to drive slow. They will respond if you use your horn and flash your brights. Don’t swerve — I wonder if the stats on people killed in deer-car collisions include the ones who ran a muck trying to avoid the deer. Hitting a deer is much better than hitting a tree or rolling the car. I like it when some jackass passes me because then they have to clear the road for me.

  12. #12 Thomas Lee Boles
    November 18, 2008

    How about ending those “enhanced sporting opportunities”?
    I noticed there are many collisions in Pennsylvania, where even a hunting Game Commissioner can be fired for suggesting the “enhancements” have gone too far. Has anyone noticed that the collisions peak during hunting season? You’d be a little less cautious about crossing the road too, if someone were after you with a gun.

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