SOCIAL CIRCLE — With an estimated 50,000 deer-car collisions annually in Georgia, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division advises motorists across the state to be extra cautious of increased deer and wildlife sightings this fall season.
Increased deer sightings occur for a number of reasons — increased populations, habitat fragmentation and mating season are a few. With fall breeding season in full swing — a peak time of year for deer-related car collisions — the division offers motorists some tips and information to help avoid potential collisions.
"Some Georgia motorists may only expect deer to cross rural roadways, while in fact, urban and suburban roads are also prime areas for deer-car collisions," said Don McGowan, Wildlife Resources Division biologist. "Hunting is oftentimes mistakenly blamed for increased deer-car collisions in autumn when, in reality, deer are on the move due to a series of both natural and human causes."
One such cause is mating season. Deer mating season occurs between October and early December. Male deer go into rut and begin actively searching for mates. This greatly contributes to the increased movement of deer, bringing them across roadways.
Increased human population and rural development also lend to increased deer sightings. As the human population continues to grow and expand into traditionally rural areas, deer lose their natural food source and consequently move into new areas in search of food and water.
Additionally, when we "fall back" for daylight savings time, our days become shorter and nights become longer. Rush hour for most commuters tends to fall during the same hours in which white-tailed deer are most active — at dawn and dusk.
The division advises drivers of the following:
Always remember deer are wildlife and therefore, very 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.
Take caution and slow down when a deer crosses. Deer generally travel in groups, so if one crosses, be ready for others to follow.
Deer are most active at dawn and dusk, so they typically are seen roadside during the early morning and late afternoon — the same times most people are commuting to and from work.
While many deer-car collisions occur in early spring and late summer, when natural food sources are scarce, the fall breeding season is also a peak time for such accidents. Road shoulders generally provide green food both during extremely dry times of the year and following a long, hard winter.
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, which 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 or to learn more about white-tailed deer or deer season, go to www.georgiawildlife.com, contact a Wildlife Resources Division Game Management office or call 770-918-6416.