DEP Urges Caution on Roadways as Deer Mating Season Begins

Oct 30, 2019
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Motorists are reminded to drive with extra caution and watch for white-tailed deer as mating season gets underway and darkness arrives earlier. Larry Herrighty, director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife, part of the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, noted, “Deer are involved in thousands of collisions with motor vehicles in New Jersey each year, with highest number occurring during the fall mating season.

“We urge all motorists to be especially alert to the possibility of deer suddenly darting onto roadways and to be aware of things they can do to reduce the risk of a collision and possible serious injury to themselves or their passengers,” he added.

White-tailed deer are more active during mating season, also known as the fall rut; they are more apt to suddenly run onto roadways as bucks pursue does. Increased deer activity is more likely to occur in the very early morning and around sunset, when visibility can be difficult.

As the state pointed out, Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 3,; therefore, most commutes will “align with the periods when deer are most active, and lighting conditions may be the most difficult for driving.”

The following tips can help motorists stay safe during the peak of the fall rut, which runs into mid-December:

• When a deer is in the vicinity, slow down and pay attention to possible sudden movement. If the deer is in the road and doesn’t move, wait for the deer to pass and the road is clear. Do not try to maneuver around the deer.

• Pay attention to “Deer Crossing” signs. Slow down when traveling through areas known to have a high concentration of deer so there is ample time to stop if necessary.

• If traveling after dark, use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic or vehicles ahead. High beams will be reflected by the eyes of deer on or near roads. If there is one deer, assume others may be in the area. Deer typically move in family groups during this time of year and cross roads single-file.

• Don’t tailgate. Remember: The driver in front of you might have to stop suddenly to avoid hitting a deer.

• Always wear a seatbelt, as required by law. Drive at a safe and sensible speed, accounting for weather, available lighting, traffic, curves and other road conditions.

• If a collision appears inevitable, do not swerve to avoid impact. The deer may counter-maneuver suddenly. Brake appropriately and stay in your lane. Collisions are more likely to become fatal when a driver swerves to avoid a deer and instead collides with oncoming traffic or a fixed structure along the road.

• Report any deer-vehicle collision to a local law enforcement agency immediately.

• Obey the state’s hands-free device law or refrain from using cellular devices while driving.

Motorists are encouraged to inform the Department of Transportation of deer carcasses they find along the state highway system by calling call 1-800-POTHOLE (1-800-768-4653) or filling out an online form at Municipal and county governments are responsible for removal of dead deer from roads they maintain.

For more information about white-tailed deer in New Jersey, visit —J.K.-H.

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