Deer More Visible, Drive With Caution
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'Tis the time of the season. No, not Halloween; but it can be scary, as a deer bolts across the road in front of you.
For the next month, Iowa’s whitetail deer will be more active and more visible to drivers. November is the month with the highest number of deer/vehicle collisions in Iowa. Still, that trend is down, since antlerless hunting tags were significantly increased a few years ago.
Those increased sightings will come as bucks become more active; even in the daytime, leading up to the mid-November peak of the rut, or breeding period. It also comes as Iowa’s crop fields are laid bare by harvest; pushing deer into remaining cover. A third factor is that sunrise and sunset…the most active periods for deer anyway…now fall in the morning and evening commute for humans.
Drivers are urged to remain alert; scanning roadsides for deer; especially as they approach ‘funnels,’ such as creek crossings, brushy or forested fence lines or ridges leading up to the road. When one deer is seen, expect more. Slowing down a few miles an hour, especially in the low-light morning and evening periods, increases driver reaction time to a sudden move. Just as importantly, when a collision cannot be avoided, it is usually safer to hit the animal, rather than swerve into oncoming traffic or leave the roadway.
Meanwhile, vehicle/deer crashes have dropped significantly in the last few years. For 2010, Iowa’s traffic deer kill was 10,153; down from 13,518 in 2009…and 15,361 in 2004. That period coincides with expanded issuance of county-specific antlerless tags to hunters to harvest more does and bring the herd down to mid-1990s levels across Iowa. As a result, the hunter harvest of deer in Iowa rose from 2003 (182,856) through 2005 (211,451); dropping since then (to 127,094 in 2010), as deer populations in more counties reach or approach target levels.
Despite the drop, Iowa’s road kill index (KBM) for the last three years is lower than for any year since 1992, when we logged about 15 billion miles. That now runs over 18 billion annually.