The days have definitely gotten shorter. But the sunrises in the morning almost make it worth it, especially for wildlife lovers like myself.
Last week, my daughter and I were treated to a common and majestic scene, passing by a soybean field still awaiting harvest. A large buck advanced confidently toward a group of three does standing a comfortable distance away from him. Both excited and nervous (for my car), I hit the brakes and rolled down my window so we could take the moment in without worrying about a collision.
The buck turned to look at us, stopped on the back road, and a moment later turned and raced toward the does. All four deer glided through the dried beans and disappeared into the tree line.
White-tailed deer breeding season, or rut, begins in October and continues through December. During this time, bucks chase does for five or six days, mate several times for a few days and then move on to mate with more does. This process continues until the end of rut.
During their breeding season, deer may dart into roadways with little caution. They also move around more frequently, over wider territories at all hours of the day and, especially, at dawn and dusk when they are most active year-round.
Increased chasing behavior during rut combined with decreased visibility during their most active hours, make deer one of the biggest hazards to drivers from October to December. Drivers often encounter deer on their way to and from work during this time of year, which can result in serious accidents.
Avoiding deer collisions
Drivers need to be extra vigilant during rut to avoid deer-vehicle collisions. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recommends the following tips to help drivers avoid hitting deer during rut.
Stay focused. Keep your focus on the roadway to give yourself as much time as possible to spot a deer.
Slow down when you see a deer. If you see a deer in the distance, slow down without swerving out of your lane. Swerving can be dangerous and may cause further damage.
Be aware deer often travel in groups. If you do see a deer on the roadway, keep in mind there may be others nearby. During rut, bucks live solitary lives and chase does, which travel in groups. When one deer crosses the road, it’s likely others are following behind.
Turn on your brights. Use your high-beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic to make spotting deer along the edge of the road easier. The brighter light reflects off their eyes, making them more visible in the dark.
Be extra cautious at dawn and dusk. Drive slower and be extra vigilant during their most active hours.
Be careful driving through deer habitat. Watch for deer where the road intersects fencerows, riparian corridors and forested habitats. Pay special attention when driving through zones marked with deer crossing signs.
If you hit a deer …
If you hit a deer, turn on your hazard lights and move your vehicle out of the roadway if you can. The ODNR recommends reporting the collision to the police and waiting for help to arrive.
Once you’re safe and you’ve dealt with the damage, contact your insurance agent or company as soon as possible to report any damage to your vehicle.
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