The other deer season is here, too
I may be tempting fate to write it, but I have never hit a deer.
Maybe it’s because my passenger-seat adviser is always warning me. And she always adds that where there’s one, there are apt to be more.
Or maybe it’s because I live in upstate New York and not the antler king-rich state of West Virginia.
These thoughts come to mind because we’re entering mating and hunting season, the three months when deer are most likely to dart unexpectedly into the headlights of evening travelers.
A national survey done by State Farm Insurance found that New York ranked No. 24 in vehicle-deer collisions last year, with a roughly 1 in 157 chance that any given motorist will strike a deer. Usually, such a collision causes several thousand dollars in vehicle damage — to say nothing of what it does to the deer. And once in a while, someone in a car is hurt or even killed by a deer strike.
The insurer estimates there were 1.22 million vehicle-deer collisions in the United States between July 2012 and June 2013, a number that fluctuates a bit but stays pretty steady year to year.
Statistically, the state where a driver is most likely to hit a deer is West Virginia, where the chances are one in 41, according to State Farm.
Neighboring Virginia and the other Appalachian Mountain states are also high on the list, while most of New England — this was a surprise to me, given deer’s known affection for suburban lawn flora — is low on the list. Greater minds than mine would have to sort out why.
Now, I love seeing deer, and it’s usually been while I was driving. I’ve always thought it was pretty cool to come around a bend on a dirt road in the Moose River Plains and find a yearling in my path, or watch a mother and fawn stare down a bear in Shenandoah National Park (now closed by the government shutdown), but the truth is I’ve encountered more on Route 67 or the back roads of Saratoga County. The ones who venture onto the Northway, I only see the visceral remains of.
The months when the cute critters are most likely to be crossing roads are now at hand.
About 18 percent of all car-deer crashes nationally happen during November, the height of hunting and mating seasons. Both factors make deer less cautious about crossing the road. That makes November the top month for hitting deer, according to the Insurance Information Institute, followed by October and then December.
The state departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation believe there are about 900,000 deer in the state, causing 60,000 to 70,000 deer-vehicle collisions each year.
So, are there ways you and I can spare the deer for another year, or at least until they meet someone in a plaid jacket with a shotgun?
Like my wife, the Insurance Information Institute advises that deer travel in herds, so there’s a strong possibility of more coming through where there’s one crossing the road. Deer are most active between 6 and 9 p.m., the institute advises — though state officials advise being on the lookout during the dawn hours, as well. Insurers suggest using high beams to get as much advance warning of deer as possible, and not to rely on car-mounted deer whistles as a deterrent.
These days, it’s also a good idea to remember that moose are out there, too, crossing the road in the dark — especially if you’re traveling from Saratoga County on north into the Adirondacks.
Moose are a different kettle of fish. They’re so tall you may not catch their eyes on the headlight beams, and if you hit one it’s going to be a more consequential impact.
Fall is also mating season for moose. So even though they can’t be hunted, don’t expect lustful moose to be any more cautious than some of the mammals behind the wheel.