Beatrice Chemutai Sigei was driving home on U.S. 15-501 in Durham when, all of a sudden, something jumped right in front of her.
I realized it was a deer, she said just an instant before she felt the impact. Sigei wasnt hurt, but her Toyota suffered $7,000 worth of damage.
It was really big, she said.
That was Nov. 3; five days later, she said, she narrowly missed another deer on the road.
I dont know whats going on with the deer, Sigei said.
Whats going on is the annual rut mating season, when male deer are on the move looking for mates. Its also peak season for collisions between deer and motor vehicles.
You can always tell when a rut is in its peak, said Greg Batts, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. All youve got to do is drive around I-540 and count the number of deer from the end of 540 to the airport. Ive been around there seen 10 or 12 deer in the morning that got hit overnight.
(Wake County) will pick them up every night and therell be 8 or 10 there the next morning.
Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews issued a statement last week urging Triangle-area drivers to be extra careful.
• According to the state DOT, 90 percent of animal-vehicle collisions involve deer. In 2009 through 2011, there were 61,046 such collisions reported in North Carolina, including 17 fatalities. Almost half 29,706 occurred in October, November and December; 13,554 in November alone.
• Orange, Durham and Wake counties had 1,745 animal-vehicle collisions in 2011, 962 in the last three months of the year.
Of 18 cars in the shop, Alex Pelliccia of the Raleigh Collision auto body shop said last week, 10 were having deer damage repaired.
Every year, it happens the same way, he said.
This time of year, we see a minimum of one a day, said Bobby Redford at Brown Brothers body shop in Durham. Sometimes five. ... Its just the season.
The season of the rut
During the rut, Batts said, theres a ton of movement by male deer, which extend their ranges farther than in the rest of the year. With their minds on does, the bucks also go a little nuts.
Thats exactly what it is, he said. The rut is at its peak from about the last week in October through Thanksgiving, and then youll notice a drop-off in the number of deer getting hit by cars. But its not over yet female deer which have not bred will come back into rut about 28 days later, So you have a second little rut, Batts said.
Moreover, said Wildlife Resources spokeswoman Carolyn Rickard, Theyre fattening up for winter, so theyre moving around in search of food. And, days are short.
Deer tend to move at dawn and dusk and rush hour, now that the days are shorter, is at dawn and dusk, she said. More cars are on the road when deer are most active.
Most deer-car crashes happen out in the country, but they are not uncommon in town.
• Raleigh Police spokesman Jim Sughrue did not have numbers, but he said hes heard officers being dispatched to deal with deer-involved accidents.
• Morrisville Police have responded to four this fall, which left a total of $7,000 in vehicle damage, said Capt. Charles Wilson.
• Cary has had 37 deer-related crashes, said Crime Analyst Elise R. Pierce.
• Durham Police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said more than 80 have been reported in the city since Oct. 1.
Sigeis was one of those. It happened near Duke Universitys West Campus, where Duke Forest, the Duke golf course, woodsy residential areas and creek bottoms afford plenty of cover and movement corridors for deer. Five days after she hit the deer, Sigei said, she narrowly missed a second.
Something should be done, she said. Best thing is, be careful.