The National Safety Council reported in 2003 that there were 530,000 car collisions involving animals. A major portion of these are wildlife and the largest part of those involved deer. Deer are a common factor in many motor vehicle collisions in National Parks. Most areas administered by the National Park Service provide habitat for white tail and in the west mule deer. A favorite food of deer is the tender new growth of grass along road shoulder after it is mowed. This brings these popular yet hazardous representatives of nature in close proximity of fast moving vehicles.
Here are a few tips that will help you understand the dynamics of deer movement and how to avoid collisions that can cause serious property damage and at times personal injuries.
• Deer are most active at dawn and dusk. This is when they like to feed so you are most likely to see deer on road shoulders.
• Remember that deer can also be encountered any other time of day.
• Drive the speed limit or below when in areas frequented by deer. This applies to most park areas.
• Be alert scanning tree lines and road shoulders for deer including the reflection from their eyes at night.
• Once you see deer or the reflection of eyes, slow down, and stay alert for movement.
• If you see deer running across the road in front of your vehicle, do not follow where they are going with your eyes. Instead look to where the deer came from. Deer do not travel alone and more deer may come from the same direction.
• At times deer will run down the road in front of your vehicle in a zig-zag pattern. Drivers are often confused by this behavior. Their natural instincts are kicking in and this is how they attempt to escape a predator. If you stop your vehicle, they will finally run off the road.
• Should a deer jump into the road in front of you, hit your brakes and stay in your lane. More extensive damage and more serious injuries can result from swerving to avoid the deer and striking a tree, rock, or oncoming vehicle.
• You will see devices sold that you can place on your vehicle that make whistling sounds to scare deer away. It was my experience that these do not guarantee safety and I saw many vehicles with this equipment in place still have collisions with deer.