Drivers urged to watch out for deer on the road
Pennsylvania’s Game Commission is advising drivers to be extra cautious due to increased deer activity in the upcoming weeks. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO
Pennsylvania’s Game Commission is advising drivers to take extra caution due to increased deer activity this fall.
In a recent release, the commission indicated that residents will likely experience more run-ins with deer in the coming weeks. According to State Farm’s annual report on the likelihood of a collision with a large animal in each state, Pennsylvania sits at third place, with a 1 in 63 chance of a person hitting a deer or other animal, which is a 6.3 percent increase over last year.
“I’m definitely seeing a lot more deer, and I’ve been flashing my lights to warn people to slow down,” Carbon County Environmental Education Center naturalist Jeannie Carl said. “A lot of people ask me, ‘Why do they charge out into the road?’ Well, they have no concept of a road, it’s just open space to them.”
In the lead-up to the fall breeding season, which is referred to as the “rut,” young bucks are traveling far from home, and older adults are venturing around their range in search of does.
The mating season isn’t the only factor at play. With daylight saving time coming to a close on Sunday, traffic will increase on average between dusk and dawn, the peak times for deer activity. And with more and more residents venturing out to enjoy the autumn wilderness, deer will often be startled and flushed out of forested areas, pushing them out to the roads.
“While the peak of the rut still is a few weeks off, deer already have increased their activity and are crossing roads,” Game Commission executive director Bryan Burhans said. “While motorists — at any time of year — are well advised to stay alert and be on the lookout for whitetails while driving, it’s especially important now and in the coming weeks.”
Jim Redington, manager of Brodheadsville’s Wreck-A-Mend Collision Center, said that his shop has already handled about 70 deer-related repairs this season.
“Normally, this time of year, we start seeing them coming in with deer hits, and actually, they started early this year, around August,” he said.
Most often, when a driver hits a deer, the vehicle will take damage to the bumper, hood, headlights, fender and other parts of the front end. Redington said repairs can easily amount to between $2,500 and $3,500, depending upon circumstances.
The Game Commission suggests taking some basic precautions to decrease the chance of an accident. Simply being more observant while driving on roads with “Deer Crossing” signs can help alleviate the chance of a collision. When you do notice a deer crossing the road, pay careful attention, as deer travel in families, single file. Where there is one, there are bound to be more.
Carl emphasizes that the key to safety is to take it slow when driving in a deer-crossing area.
However, you can’t always avoid an accident. Despite the instinct to swerve and avoid a direct hit when a collision seems likely, the absolute worst thing you can do is try to be evasive, Redington said.
“Don’t try to avoid them. Just hit them,” he said. “I have a lot of customers that drive off the road and do more damage than if they had hit them.”
In case of collision
In case you do hit a deer, there are some important steps to follow.
While drivers are not required to contact the Game Commission when they hit a deer, they must contact the commission if they wish to claim the carcass. The resident must call within 24 hours of taking the deer. Only Pennsylvania drivers may claim carcasses in the state, and a passing driver can claim a carcass if the person who hit the deer does not wish to take it.
Furthermore, the commission advises that drivers who wish to take a deer carcass respect the rules related to chronic wasting disease. High-risk deer parts, such as the head or backbone, cannot be removed from any Disease Management Area. More information on high-risk deer parts, chronic wasting disease and Disease Management Areas can be found at www.pgc.pa.gov.
If a driver hits a buck, they are not permitted to take the antlers, which must be turned over the game commission. They may be purchased by the person who claims the carcass for $10 per point.
In the event that the deer is not killed in the collision, drivers should maintain their distance, as the animal may recover enough to move on its own. If the deer does not appear to be able to move, or it poses a threat of some sort, drivers should contact the game commission or local law enforcement.
To report a dead deer for removal from state roads, drivers can call the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation at 1-800-FIX-ROAD.