Avoid deer vehicle collisions during hunting and mating

By Frania Shelley-Grielen. All rights reserved

Deer hunting season began officially in parts of northern New York State in late September. Deer mating or rutting season also begins in the fall, spanning October through January with the most activity in mid November. Rutting season for the deer means a lot of movement making this time of year a dangerous time to get around with hunting and vehicle traffic posing the biggest threats. Depending on the encounter: arrow, bullet or car can be fatal for deer and humans. An October 2011 article in the Wildlife Society Bulletin noted that 90% of highway collisions end in deer fatalities with 65% of the collisions resulting in human injury. Know how to avoid accidents with deer:

• Research shows that paying attention when driving at deer crossings is the key to safety. Extreme caution should be exercised when the deer are the most active and visibility is the poorest: dawn and from dusk to midnight.

• Deer behavior becomes more variable during rutting season and a buck chasing a doe is frequently the victim in animal-vehicle crashes. Drivers may see one deer crossing the road and be unaware or unprepared for the enamored suitor in hot pursuit. Male deer (bucks) chasing female deer (does) will literally not look before they leap.

• Deer also travel in family groups and young deer are less savvy around road crossings. Studies show that slowing down can reduce the number of collisions up to 50%.

• If you do see a deer while driving, slow down and lean on your horn if possible to frighten the deer away. Do not hit the horn repeatedly as this may cause the deer to panic.

• Be aware of rutting season as well as the height of winter when food becomes sparse and deer expand their foraging range, both times require higher vigilance to avoid accidents.

• If you hit a deer try not to swerve off the road or into other lanes. Studies have shown that human deaths hardly ever come from contact with the deer rather they occur when drivers try and avoid the deer and run off the road or fall off motorcycles (motorcycle riders account for about half of human losses in this type of accident).

• A deer that has been killed or injured by a car should not be approached. If the deer is still alive it will be stressed and frightened, touching the animal will cause greater stress and may cause it to try and defend itself. Call for help instead.

• Before removing a dead deer from the scene of an accident a permit for the animal is required from an investigating officer at the scene.

• Most deer meat is safe to eat but not all. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is present in deer in certain areas of New York State. In affected areas it is illegal to be given or possess a permit for deer. For more information on affected areas go to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) website.

Research shows that posted deer crossing signs do reduce driver speed and also significantly reduce the number of collisions. The same studies also show that over 75% of Canadian and US transportation agencies hardly ever use deer crossing signs consistently or when installing new work projects. More strategically placed signage is an effective and relatively inexpensive fix for agencies, deer and drivers.

Deer hunting season begins in the first week of January in Suffolk County and ends in the beginning of December for parts of northern New York Sate and finishes in the end of January in Suffolk County. There is no hunting allowed in Nassau County or in New York City. These dates are subject to change. For more information on specific dates and locations visit the New York State DEC website.


R. Boyce, M.S. (2011). Warning signs mitigate deer-vehicle collisions in an Urban area. Wildlife Society Bulletin 35 (3): 291

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