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Drivers Beware: Deer Mating Season

Experts say white-tailed deer will be more active, wandering roadways during the next few months

With deer breeding season in full-swing, motorists should be extra cautious of the four-legged beauties, wildlife experts say. 

The state Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife is urging motorists to be alert for white-tailed deer on roads across the state, especially during morning and evening commutes when visibility may be poor and deer are more active, according to a release from the DEP.

“White-tailed deer are on the move and unpredictable during this season,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Chanda. “Deer are much more likely to dart into roads without warning at this time of year. Drivers should be extra alert to avoid collisions that could result in injuries and damage to their vehicles.”

Deer movements related to breeding are beginning now and will pick up in the coming weeks, the release says.

Studies show the peak of the mating season in the state occurs in late October and throughout November and December in all regions of the New Jersey, the releae says.

"Triggered by shorter days and cooler weather, deer disperse and move around considerably as they search for mates," the release says.

Deer behavior is likely to be sudden and unpredictable.

"In many instances, deer will wander closer to and onto roadways. They may suddenly stop in the middle of a road, crossing and even re-crossing it. The danger is particularly pronounced at dawn and dusk when many people are commuting to and from work. Visibility resulting from low light or sun glare may be difficult during these times," the release says. 

Commuters should be especially alert and drive with additional caution -- especially when daylight saving time ends on Nov. 4, the release says.

Normal driver commuting times will more closely align with peak deer activity periods after this time.

“This is a tricky time of year for drivers,’’ said DEP Supervising Wildlife Biologist Carol Stanko. “There are probably as many deer killed in New Jersey each year by cars and trucks than as by hunters.’’

There are an estimated 110,000 white-tailed deer in huntable areas of New Jersey, with counless others in places where hunting is not allowed, the release says

There were 30,866 deer struck by vehicles in the state in 2010, the release says. 

The DEP offers the following tips to help motorists stay safe:

  • If you spot a deer, slow down and pay attention to possible sudden movement. If the deer doesn’t move, don’t go around it. Wait for the deer to pass and the road is clear.
  • Pay attention to “Deer Crossing” signs. They are there for a reason. Slow down when traveling through areas known to have a high concentration of deer so you will have ample time to stop if necessary.
  • If you are traveling after dark, use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic. High beams will be reflected by the eyes of deer on or near roads.
  • If you see one deer, be on guard: others may be in the area. Deer typically move in family groups at this time of year and cross roads single-file. Female deer are being chased by bucks and during breeding phase are often unaware of traffic.
  • Don’t tailgate. Remember: the driver in front of you might have to stop suddenly to avoid hitting a deer.
  • Always wear a seatbelt, as required by law. Drive at a safe and sensible speed, taking into account weather, available lighting, traffic, curves and other road conditions.
  • If a collision appears inevitable, do not swerve to avoid impact. The deer may counter-maneuver suddenly. Brake firmly, but stay in your lane. Collisions are more likely to become fatal when a driver swerves to avoid a deer and instead collides with oncoming traffic or a fixed structure along the road.
  • Report any deer-vehicle collision to a local law enforcement agency immediately.
Cory Johunley October 15, 2012 at 12:38 PM
The headline of this article, "Deer Entering Mating Season, Motorists Be Weary," is exactly the WRONG thing for drivers to do. It's DANGEROUS advice. Mr. LaPlaca should know better than to give bad advice like that. If you are weary, please STAY HOME and get some sleep! We have drunk drivers and careless drivers on the road. We don't need to add weary drivers to the mix. Don't enough people die and get severely injured on the roads of NJ? If you are weary, you need sleep so that you will be more alert and you can notice the deer and not hit them. Don't drive when you are tired. Thanks.
Charlie LaPlaca (Editor) October 15, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Folks, this gentleman is correct. The only weary one here was this local editor during the creation of that terrible headline. It's been fixed.
GJD October 15, 2012 at 03:43 PM
When it comes down to it, there’s not much anyone can really do to avoid incident if one of these critters run in front of your vehicle. I did not like the title of this article but it does offer some useful advice. I think that is important to mention that bright lights (high beams) can mesmerize a deer in the road and is NOT in any way a deterrent, or a way to flush the deer off the road. It simply helps you see them better and will not make or force the deer to run off into the woods or away from your vehicle. I know quite a few people that say they never use their high beams when in a suspected deer zone, only because it tends to make the dear freeze up solid in the middle of the road. I myself am not sure if that is good advice or not. Living in the state of NJ for my entire life, I have unfortunately hit several deer while traveling the roads here. It can happen so quickly that you have minimal time to react let alone to stop a vehicle that’s traveling at road or highway speeds. Once, I’ve even stopped quickly while a pack of deer ran in front of my car, only to have one smash squarely into my passenger door while entering the road way. It caved in my entire passenger door, it all happened while I was stopped. And that deer fell down after impact, and then he got up and followed the rest of pack across the roadway and into the woods. So do NOT be in a rush to ever get out of your vehicle if you strike one.

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