TOPEKA, Kan – As the fall approaches be on the lookout for deer on the roadway. Mating season and a search for more secure habitat have deer on the move this time of the year.
The greatest number of deer-vehicle crashes are in mid-November when the rut, or mating season, peaks. In addition to the rut, deer are on the move in the mid-fall looking for new sources of food and shelter as crops are harvested and leaves fall from trees and shrubs, leaving them in a less secure environment than in their summer habitats.
“Wet weather this year may cause some deer to cross roads in new places and the additional vegetation growth could make deer harder to see until they are in the road,” Levi Jaster, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Big Game Coordinator, said. “The approaching breeding season increases deer movement, and the cooler weather, along with young deer dispersing to find new home ranges, mean more deer may be crossing the roads.”
According to the Kansas Department of Transportation, 10,734 of the 64,933 vehicle crashes reported in 2018 were deer-related. Although crashes involving deer occur throughout the year and in every Kansas county, Sedgwick County had the most in 2018 with 418 deer-vehicle crashes.
“In addition to potentially causing human injuries and loss of life, deer collisions often cause significant vehicle damage that can lead to large expenses for the vehicle owner if not properly insured,” Shawn Steward, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Kansas, said. “Of the animal strikes reported by AAA Insurance policy holders during the five-year period between 2014 and 2018, the average cost per claim was nearly $4,300.”
The Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) cautions drivers to refrain from making exaggerated maneuvers to avoid a deer in the road, lest a bad situation become even worse.
“If you are unfortunate enough to have a deer enter the highway in front of your car, it is best to hit the animal and not swerve to avoid it,” said the KHP’s Lt. Adam Winters. “Often, we find more serious crashes occur when you swerve to miss the deer, potentially losing control of your vehicle, leaving the road or veering into oncoming traffic.”