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Shorter days and cooler fall temperatures are reminders to Iowa drivers that the risk of deer-vehicle collisions will increase in the coming weeks. On the plus side, the chance of hitting a whitetail remains at the lowest level in the last nine years.
Deer activity will increase through October and the first half of November, as the peak of the rut—or deer breeding season—approaches. This comes as more drivers are on the road during dawn and dusk and as the crop harvest opens more fields, pushing deer toward remaining cover.
Though drivers should still remain alert, deer populations remain stable after being reduced from 2006-13; and are at or below levels recorded in the mid-1990s. Since 2006, that has pushed the reported harvest down 33 percent and the number of road kills down by 35 percent. That reduction has come through an emphasis on harvesting does; through the county by county antlerless tag format and seasons available to hunters.
According to State Farm's annual report on vehicle-deer claims, Iowa continues to fall on a list of 'high incidence' states coming in at fifth this year, down from fourth last year even as the number of miles driving in Iowa continues to increase.
Drivers can further reduce the chance of hitting a deer by remaining alert near potential deer crossings, slowing down during dawn and dusk--high deer travel periods—and not veering out of your lane if a deer strike appears imminent. By ‘veering for deer,’ vehicles may leave the roadway, with the risk of striking a pole, bridge abutment or other hazards, or facing oncoming traffic, in another lane.
Likely deer funnels include creeks, fence lines or trees leading up to road crossings. Deer are likely to follow those for the cover they provide, before crossing the short stretch of open road to the other side. By watching the road shoulders and fence lines drivers can better detect a deer near the road. Remember, too, if one deer crosses the road; chances are couple more are nearby.
As the peak of the rut approaches in early November there will be increased activity as bucks begin following does often oblivious to roadway traffic. That means daytime sightings of deer as that breeding pressure knocks deer out of their normal nocturnal patterns.