Driving Around Deer
The NEPA outdoors is arguably at its peak this time of year—mountainside foliage is colorful, the air is just brisk enough to enjoy a hike, and wildlife is actively preparing for a restful winter. But NEPA drivers also know that autumn can mean something more dangerous: watch out for deer!
Last year, a study by AAA put Pennsylvania in the top three states for deer accidents, and October through December is often the busiest time of year. The big reason why our beloved state animal gets into more accidents in the fall…
The rut is when bucks compete for does, who will give birth in spring. Unfortunately, mating season makes deer more active and less cautious. Indeed, some deer can become downright aggressive during the rutting season. Combine that mentality with competition for dwindling food supplies, and you will see herds moving into more active or developed areas they might previously avoid.
North Branch Land Trust staff spends plenty of time on backroads. While this is certainly not legal advice, we’ve found these tips to be useful on the roads in NEPA!
Exercise extra caution in known habitats
Give yourself time to drive a little bit slower, especially in wooded areas. Deer can be skittish with erratic movements and can run up to 35 miles per hour. If you see a deer don’t panic! Swerving or stomping on the brakes is more likely to put you in danger with other vehicles than it is to save any animals. Slow down safely and continue your course; frequently, a deer will have crossed the road before you have time to react.
Deer in the headlights
But what about the deer who freeze? NBLT’s Karley Stasko said, “I learned from a relative in Australia that if they ever catch a kangaroo in their headlights, they stop, flash the headlights off for a second and when they turn them back on, the ‘roo is usually unfrozen and on their way. Turns out, deer do the same thing!” While going dark is NOT something you want to do on a fast and busy road, when you’re stopped for a cervid staring contest, it can make a big difference.
Whistle while you drive
NBLT staff have also equipped their vehicles with deer whistles. Deer whistles are small cones that are mounted to the front of a car that produce a consistent sound when traveling above a certain speed. Inaudible from within the vehicle (and difficult to hear with the human ear outside), the devices vary, but the goal is the same—to make a car more noticeable to wildlife. While research indicates that these whistles might not be as effective at moving deer out of the way as advertised, studies have also shown that the sounds produced can be heard by a variety of wildlife. If you have a noticeably quiet vehicle like a hybrid or electric, these whistles can make a difference on woodland roads.
North Branch Land Trust is a conservation nonprofit committed to conserving the natural working and scenic landscapes in NEPA that sustain us. Learn & support at nblt.org
Featured Image (top) courtesy of North Branch Land Trust.