Looking for love, deer get up in your grille

Staff WriterNovember 10, 2010 

  • See a dead deer on the side of the road? Call N.C. Department of Transportation maintenance offices for pick up.

    Chatham: 919-742-3431

    Durham: 919-477-2814

    Johnston: 919-934-6176

    Orange: 919-732-4330

    Wake: 919-733-4768

    Reports can also be made online at www.ncdot.gov. Click on the contact tab, then "road report" and pick a county. Be specific about the location, such as the intersection or mile marker.

  • Know a place in the Triangle where deer along the side of the road are common? Go to the comments section of this story at www.newsobserver.com and let us know.

  • Slow down: In areas with a large deer population or where there are deer warning signs, drivers should reduce speed.

    Wear your seat belt: It's your best protection from injuries in the event of a crash.

    Watch for deer eyes reflecting in your headlights: Try to look far down the road and scan the roadside, especially when driving through field edges, heavily wooded areas or posted deer crossing areas. The sooner you see a deer on or approaching a road, the better your chances of avoiding a crash.

    Remember that deer travel in herds: If you see one deer cross the road in front of you, don't assume all is clear. Deer herds can be fairly large, and the animals often move one right behind the other.

    Do not place confidence in "deer whistles": Or in other "ultra-sonic" devices that claim to prevent deer collisions.

    Maintain control of your vehicle: It is important that you not lose control of your vehicle or veer into the path of an oncoming vehicle to avoid contact with an animal.

The deer are especially randy this time of year, and that can be dangerous for us humans.

Deer breeding season, romantically referred to as "the rut," means that bucks on the prowl for some sexy time and does playing hard to get inevitably end up on our roads, possibly in front of our cars.

State Farm Insurance Agency says your odds of hitting a deer in North Carolina are 1 in 147. That's up from last year, when it was 1 in 150.

And statistically speaking, this month has the most deer wrecks. Of the 19,400 deer crashes that occurred in the state last year, 4,200 happened in November, according to Eric Rodgman, a senior analyst with the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.

There are several reasons why deer-car collisions are more prevalent now:

For one, deer look for love during the twilight hours. Since the time change last weekend, twilight arrives at rush hour. More people are on the roads when the deer are roaming, increasing your chances of hitting one. About 80 percent of all deer crashes occur late in the day, Rodgman said.

Two, as human populations grow, there are more opportunities for interaction with deer. Neighborhoods, shopping malls and schools are pushed farther into deer habitats, such as the Umstead Park area in Wake County, said Joe Folta, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

In fact, Wake led the state by far with the most deer crashes in 2009 - 1,174. The next closest county was Guilford with 628.

Finally, the rutting period, which used to last a month or two, has now extended to January or February, Folta said. That's because the deer population is skewed with way more does than bucks - a result of hunters traditionally only shooting bucks and not does, thinking that will keep the population thriving.

But really it just forces the polygamous bucks to work overtime to impregnate all those ladies.

"We are still trying to break people of that habit of not shooting does," Folta said.

So what's the take away from all this?

Avert little Johnny's eyes if you're near woods and don't want him to see something he oughtn't.

But do keep your eyes focused on the road for hot-to-trot deer.

leah.friedman@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4546

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