CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO -- The chances for deer darting in front of fast-moving vehicles increases in November, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), so drivers should be extra alert to avoid accidents.
This is the “rut” or breeding season for white-tailed deer, which makes them more active than usual and causes them to be near or cross highways more often, said Rob Sulkowski, a southeast Missouri Conservation Agent.
“The first three weeks of November is our highest peak for increased deer activity,” Sulkowski said. He added that dusk, evening and dawn hours pose the greatest risk for deer to move across highways and into the path of vehicles.
“To avoid collisions with deer, drivers should slow down and be cautious, scan the roadway from one ditch line to the other and avoid tunnel vision,” he said. He added that how you react to an approaching deer is vitally important.
“Don’t swerve to try and miss hitting a deer,” Sulkowski said. “Often it’s the people who try to swerve to avoid the deer who have injuries after an accident because they end up driving into oncoming traffic or rolling their vehicle in the ditch.”
Staying calm and reducing the vehicle speed is the best approach, he said.
Deer encounters are most likely in places where wooded areas are near the roadway. Southeast Missouri has many rural areas bordering highways where deer are present. Locations with deer crossing signs deserve special caution. Use high-beam headlights when possible. Watch for deer silhouettes on road sides or eyes glowing in the headlights, and slow down if you spot deer near the road. Remember, also, that if you see one deer, another is often close behind.
Sulkowski said studies show gadgets such as “deer whistles” don’t usually prevent accidents. He maintains that being alert to roadside conditions and slowing down if deer are spotted are the best defenses. If a vehicle does strike a deer, the motorist should immediately call 911 and report any injuries and the location of the accident, he said. If the deer is still alive, they should wait for law enforcement personnel to arrive at the scene.
Any motorist wanting to keep the meat, hide or antlers from a deer killed on the highway must contact a conservation agent in the county where the accident occurred and request a disposition form before taking the deer into possession.