State: Deer on the move; motorists use caution

With deer becoming increasingly active, and daylight saving time soon to put more vehicles on the road during the hours when deer move most, the state Game Commission is advising motorists to slow down and stay alert.

“White-tailed deer are entering a period of increased activity and are crossing roads more frequently as a result,” said Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough. “While drivers should always remain alert and on the lookout for whitetails crossing roads, there is reason to pay particular attention while behind the wheel now and in the coming weeks.”

Deer become more active in autumn with the lead-up to their fall breeding season, commonly referred to as the “rut.” Around this time, many yearling bucks disperse from the areas in which they were born and travel, sometimes several dozen miles, to find new ranges. Meanwhile, adult bucks more often are cruising their home ranges in search of does, and they sometimes chase the does they encounter.

Add to this the fact autumn sees a number of people taking part in outdoor activities that might flush deer from forested areas or briar thickets, and that deer are more actively feeding to store energy for winter months, and it quickly becomes evident why motorists might be more likely to encounter deer on roads.

When daylight saving time ends Nov. 6, there also will be increased vehicular traffic between dusk and dawn — the peak hours for deer activity.

Drivers can reduce their chances of collisions with deer by staying alert and better understanding deer behavior. Motorists are urged to pay particular attention while driving on stretches marked with “Deer Crossing” signs.

For example, deer often travel in family groups and walk single file. So even if one deer successfully crosses the road in front of a driver, it doesn’t mean the threat is over. Another could be right behind it.

A driver who hits a deer with a vehicle is not required to report the accident to the Game Commission. If the deer dies, only Pennsylvania residents may claim the carcass.

To do so, they must call the Game Commission region office representing the county where the accident occurred and an agency dispatcher will collect the information needed to provide a free permit number, which the caller should write down.

A resident must call within 24 hours of taking possession of the deer. A passing Pennsylvania motorist also may claim the deer, if the person whose vehicle hit it doesn’t want it.

Those taking possession road-killed deer also are advised of rules related to chronic wasting disease (CWD) that prohibit the removal of high-risk deer parts – essentially the head and backbone – from any established Disease Management Area (DMA). Those parts must be removed before the deer is transported outside a DMA. For DMA maps, the complete list of high-risk parts and other information on CWD, visit the Game Commission’s website at www.pgc.pa.gov.

Antlers from bucks killed in vehicle collisions either must be turned over to the Game Commission, or may be purchased for $10 per point by the person who claims the deer. Also, removing antlers from road-killed bucks is illegal.

If a deer is struck by a vehicle, but not killed, drivers are urged to maintain their distance because some deer might recover and move on. However, if a deer does not move on, or poses a public safety risk, drivers are encouraged to report the incident to a Game Commission regional office or other local law-enforcement agency. If the deer must be put down, the Game Commission will direct the proper person to do so.

To report a dead deer for removal from state roads, motorists can call the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation at 1-800-FIX-ROAD.

Tips for motorists

•        Don’t count on deer whistles or deer fences to deter deer from crossing roads in front of you. Stay alert.

•        Watch for the reflection of deer eyes and for deer silhouettes on the shoulder of the road. If anything looks slightly suspicious, slow down.

•        Slow down in areas known to have a large deer population; where deer-crossing signs are posted; places where deer commonly cross roads; areas where roads divide agricultural fields from woods; and whenever in forested areas between dusk and dawn.

•        Deer do unpredictable things. Sometimes they stop in the middle of the road when crossing. Sometimes they cross and quickly re-cross back from where they came. Sometimes they move toward an approaching vehicle. Assume nothing. Slow down; blow your horn to urge the deer to leave the road. Stop if the deer stays on the road; don’t try to go around it.

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