Most collisions between cars and deer happen in October through December, when deer are on the move more, and when their minds are clouded by hormones as they seek mates. Please do your part to keep deer safe from accident, and to protect yourself and your passengers at the same time!
Be mindful that deer are most active at dawn and dusk. During those times, it is particularly important to drive slowly and cautiously. Nobody likes to go slow on this big, open country roads, but slowing down is the singular most important way to avoid a collision.
Keep an eye on the sides of the roads, not just the road itself. We’re all prone to “road hypnosis” where we start zoning out looking at those white lines, but stay mindful of your surroundings. That will prevent you from hitting not only deer, but also other animals.
Don’t throw food waste into the road, ever! Deer and other animals are sometimes drawn to roads by waste like apple cores, peanut shells, and salty fast food wrappers. Spread the words out this very important step that we we can all take to prevent animals from getting killed on roadways.
If you do have a deer cross your path and can’t brake fast enough to avoid it, resist that knee-jerk urge to swerve. As terrible as it would be to collide with a deer, you will likely have a much more serious accident— quite possibly including human deaths— if you instead hit another vehicle head-on.
Call your local game wardens or police if you have struck a deer, even if the deer is already dead and can’t be treated. You may need a police report to file an insurance claim, even if you don’t yet know if any damage to your vehicle. Your local authorities need to be notified about deer that have already passed away, so they can be safely removed from the road before drawing scavengers into the road.
Here’s the hardest part for us, as wildlife rehabilitators, and for the general public, but it needs to be mentioned. If authorities determine that the deer needs to be euthanized after a car collision, they may choose to use a gunshot to the head as the method for euthanasia. We understand that this very upsetting to see, but please don’t interfere or try to stop it from happening. Adult deer hit by cars can almost never be successfully rehabilitated, and leaving them to suffer— even for the time it takes to transport them to a vet— can be extremely cruel. Please understand that even an “ugly” form of euthanasia is sometimes the kind and compassionate thing to do.
As always, though, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Please watch for wildlife so you can avoid tragedy this fall!