For Release October 19, 1999

Oh Deer! Itís the Silly Season

by Chuck Otte, County Extension Agent

My wife and I were driving into Junction City from the north the other evening just after sunset. A pickup passed us and proceeded on ahead of. From out of the ditch, in the far corner of his headlights, I saw a slight motion and instinctively hit the brakes. The pickup didnít see the deer until it was on the road ahead of them. Four screaming tires couldnít stop the pickup and the deer went skidding one way as vehicle debris went the other.

The deer spun around in the middle of the road, regained its feet and headed on into the ditch and pasture beyond. I was slowed down enough by then that I had no problem negotiating around the spinning deer and flying debris. No one in the pickup was hurt, although the driver was understandably upset. While the deer ran off, Iím convinced that it probably died later that evening or is now crippled and will have problems surviving the winter.

We are now in that time of year that I call the silly season, the deer rut. That time of year when deer have one thing on their mind, making more deer. They tend to become oblivious to everything else, they have a one track mind and they just tend to act stupid. If that was all there was to it we wouldnít have a problem. But letís compound the problem. Letís put a lot of deer into a given location with a lot of good habitat. Then letís put a lot of people there with a lot of vehicles and a lot of roads. You now have the recipe for problems.

Vehicle/deer collisions are entirely too common this time of year. Occasionally, people are hurt or killed in these accidents. The deer arenít going to change a few thousand years of instinct so we canít expect much help there. The only answer is for the vehicle drivers, thatís you and me, to be extra observant for the next couple months. To be honest, deer/car collisions happen every month of the year so you have to alert all the time, but the fall of the year seems to show the highest accident rate.

Awareness is the key step. If you are driving anywhere in this part of Kansas you need to be alert for deer. While the deer can be active any time of day, sunrise and sunset tend to be very active times. With limited visibility most of the accidents will probably occur from just before sunset to just after sunrise. Donít wait for those deer crossing warning signs. Assume every mile of road is a potential deer crossing around here.

When you are driving at these hours you need to be very attentive to whatís ahead of you. Pay close attention to the ditches on either side of the road. Look for movement or eye reflections of your headlights. Always assume that if an animal is in the ditch that it will cross in front of you. Slow down immediately. In fact, it would probably be a good idea to just slow down a little anyway. Traveling at 65 mph you are moving at 95.3 feet per second (fps). At 60 mph you cover 88 fps and at 55 mph, 81 fps. A good reaction time (the time it takes for you to recognize a problem and start to apply the brakes) is about three fourths of a second. Slowing down 5 or 10 mph could give you that extra 10 or 15 feet that you need to avoid a deer collision.

Donít depend on deer whistles or other devices. There is not enough evidence to prove that they work. Leave enough room between you and the driver ahead so that if something happens to them, you have time and room to avoid a secondary accident. Being alert, aware and defensive are the best ways to avoid hitting deer. Deer accidents are going to happen, believe me, I know from experience. But a great number of them can be prevented with a little attention and caution from all of us!


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