Deer Don't Stop and Look Before Crossing Roads, Warn Officials

LEONARDTOWN, Md. (Sept. 2, 2008)—Officials in St. Mary's County this morning issued a seasonal warning to citizens to be on the lookout for deer who may wander onto local roadways at the peril of oncoming motorists. "Deer typically do not stop and look both ways when they cross a highway," warned a County press release.

Collisions between deer and automobiles are relatively common. County officials say between 2006 and 2007, the total number of deer/vehicle collisions reported in St. Mary’s increased from 72 to 74.

According to the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources, Maryland yearling bucks (males) weigh an average of 135 pounds and yearling does (females) average 120 pounds. White-tailed deer sprint up to 35 miles per hour and are able to leap over 8 foot tall barriers.

Most accidents occur between dusk and dawn. Deer often travel at night and are easily spooked by oncoming headlights. When seeing the oncoming lights, deer may appear to freeze and then sprint in front of the oncoming vehicle at the last second.

Deer also become more active starting in the late summer as testosterone hormonal levels elevate and persist until mid January, according to the DNR. Respectively, the breeding season begins in October and continues until about mid December.

County officials offer the following tips for dealing with deer on the roadways:

-- Deer usually travel in groups and generally maintain a home range of about one (1) square mile. If you see a deer cross the road, slow down and use caution. Additional deer may be out of view and more are likely to follow.

-- A deer standing calmly in a field may suddenly jump into the road. Anticipate the potential for this rapid change in posture.

-- Elevate your deer awareness at locations with deer crossing signs. Deer crossing signs indicate areas where heavily used deer trails cross roadways. Slow down and watch for the eye-shine of deer near the roadway edges.

-- Be especially aware during the morning and afternoon. Deer tend to be more active during the early morning hours and late afternoon hours year round. They are moving between evening feeding areas and daytime bedding sites.

-- Be especially cautious during seasons of high deer activity including: October to January during the breeding season; May and June when yearlings are seeking new territories; and in Spring when deer move as snow disappears and gravitate near roadway shoulders for the first greening grass and remaining roadway salt.

-- Slow down and avoid hitting deer, but do not swerve. This can cause you to lose control and strike another vehicle, or to leave the highway and strike a tree or other object. Injuries to drivers and passengers increase when the vehicle swerves.

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