SOCIAL CIRCLE — Hunters and rutting season have deer on the move, so state officials are cautioning motorists to be on the lookout.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division has estimated the likelihood of a deer-car collision on Georgia roads at one out of every 134 drivers.
“Deer are at their most active during the fall, and while many drivers know to be on the lookout for deer along rural roads, deer-car collisions can occur in Georgia’s suburban and urban areas as well,” said Charlie Killmaster, state deer biologist with DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division. “People often look to hunting as the reason for increased deer-car collisions, but there are natural explanations for the seasonal increase in deer activity.”
There are two main reasons why drivers may see more deer along roads in the fall:
• Mating season — Deer mating season occurs between October and late December, depending on location. Male deer go into rut and begin actively searching for mates. This behavior results in an increase in deer movement, bringing them across roadways.
• Time changes — As we “fall back” for daylight savings time, days become shorter and nights longer. Rush hour for most commuters tends to fall during the same hours in which white-tailed deer are most active — dawn and dusk.
Following are tips and information to help avoid potential collisions:
• Deer are unpredictable: Always remember deer are wild and, therefore, can be unpredictable. A deer calmly standing on the side of a road may bolt into or across the road rather than away from it when startled by a vehicle.
• One deer usually means more: Always take caution and slow down when a deer crosses the road in front of you. Deer usually travel in groups, so it is likely that others will follow.
• Time of day: As deer are most active at dawn and dusk, they are typically seen along roads during the early morning and late evening — the same times most people are commuting to and from work.
• Time of year: While deer-car collisions can occur at any time of year, the fall breeding season is a peak time for such accidents. During the fall breeding season, deer movement increases and this often brings them to roads that cross their natural habitats. Road shoulders generally provide beneficial food plants both during extremely dry times of the year and following a long, hard winter. Deer are generally attracted to these plants in late winter, early spring and late summer. Georgia’s new deer-rut map (www.georgiawildlife.com/rut-map) is a tool for motorists to determine local peaks in deer movement. Drivers should be especially wary of deer during these time periods. It estimates that peak rut season in Liberty and Long counties was Oct. 20.
• Minimize damage: If it is too late to avoid a collision, drivers are advised to slow down as much as possible to minimize damage — resist the urge to swerve to avoid the deer, as this may cause further damage, sending drivers off the road or causing a collision with another vehicle. If an accident occurs, alert the police as soon as possible.
For more information on the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, visit www.georgiawildlife.com.