Hold on for deer life: Officials stress alert driving during peak season


The final three months of the year are among the most dangerous times for deer-related accidents. (Delaware State News/Andrew West)

The final three months of the year are among the most dangerous times for deer-related accidents. (Delaware State News/Andrew West)

DOVER — Few things will ruin your day faster than crashing into a 180-pound buck with your car.

But it can do more than just ruin your day.

Collisions with deer can cause severe damage to your vehicle and easily result in serious or fatal injuries to you and your passengers.

It’s for this reason that Sgt. Richard Bratz, Delaware State Police spokesman, stressed that motorists exercise caution during the upcoming months when deer crash incidents hit their peak.

A recent report released by the State Police outlined strategies for avoiding collisions, hot spots in the state to watch for and peak times of day for collisions.

Last year, there were nearly 1,800 deer-related crashes in Delaware and about half were in the final three months of the year.

Almost half of the deer-related accidents were in Sussex County.

So far this year, more than 960 have been reported through the end of September.

The majority of deer activity that resulted in crashes occurs during the dusk and dawn hours in October, November and December.

The report also stated that overall, most of these incidents occurred along the state’s main corridors of Del. 1 and U.S. routes 13 and 113 during the 6 a.m. hour. On secondary roads, the report found that 5 to 6 p.m. was one of the worst times.

In Kent County, the hot spots for deer accidents include Del. 1 north of Dover, Bay Road near Frederica, and U.S. 13 from Camden to Harrington.

In the report, Mr. Bratz said deer are even more active this time of year due to their annual mating season “rut” in November with bucks chasing doe through fields, marshes and woods. The average white-tailed deer in Delaware weighs approximately 130 pounds, with larger bucks getting up to 180 pounds or more.

Delaware State Police said it is important to stay alert at all times and offered some tips:

•Watch for “Deer Crossing” signs that mark commonly traveled areas, and be aware that deer typically cross between areas of cover, such as woods or where roads divide agricultural fields from woods.

•If a deer is crossing the road, slow down immediately and proceed with caution. Deer usually travel in groups, so if there’s one deer, there are likely to be others.

•Slow down and blow the horn with one long blast to frighten deer away. Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer, as these devices have not been proven to reduce deer crashes.

•Do not swerve to miss a deer. Instead, brake and stay in the lane. Losing control of a vehicle, crossing into another lane, hitting an oncoming vehicle or leaving the roadway and hitting another obstacle such as a tree or a pole is likely to be much more serious than hitting a deer.

•Highways and state routes are often lined with lights, which leads operators to believe they will be able to better see deer approaching roadways. However, due to the increase of speed on such roadways and lights that make deer eyes less visible, it’s the deer that are often more difficult to spot on highways and state routes.

If a motorist hits a deer, the report states that it is necessary to stop at the scene, get the car off the road if possible and call the police. Approaching or touching the animal may be dangerous because “a frightened and wounded deer can cause serious injury to a well-meaning person trying to ‘help.’ You could be bitten, kicked or even gored by a buck’s antlers. Keep a safe distance and wait for troopers to arrive,” the report said.

Killing a deer with a car may be less sporty than stalking it with a bow, but harvesting the animal at least prevents it from going to waste. According to the Natural Resources Police (Fish and Wildlife) though, it is illegal to possess a deer killed as the result of a vehicle accident unless the deer has been examined and tagged by an officer.

“If you hit a deer, see someone hit a deer or just find one that was very recently hit and want to harvest it, we’d be more than happy to come out and tag it for you, because otherwise it will just sit there until DelDOT comes out to relocate the carcass and let nature take its course,” said Sgt. John McDerby, of the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife Natural Resources Police.

Sgt. McDerby said many people throughout the state who are familiar with harvesting deer carcasses do take advantage of this opportunity, but the frequency often depends on the season. In the colder months, a recently hit deer stays fresh longer and thus is more likely to be taken.

Anyone wanting to take possession of a deer killed on the road can obtain a vehicle-killed deer tag from Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police who can be reached at (302) 739-4580 or (800) 523-3336.

For information about white-tailed deer in Delaware, the Division of Fish and Wildlife can be contacted at 302-739-9912.

Danger areas
New Castle County
•Limestone Road near area of New Linden Hill Road and Kirkwood Highway;
•Del. 1 near Odessa;
•River Road near Delaware City to New Castle area;
•Centre Road near Gilpin Drive.
Kent County
•Del. 1, North side of Dover;
•Bay Road near the Frederica area;
•South DuPont Highway, Camden to the Harrington Area;
•South State Street, Camden to the Magnolia area.
Sussex County
•DuPont Boulevard, U.S. Route 113 between Georgetown and Millsboro;
•Coastal Highway, Del. 1 near Milton and the Lewes area;
•John J. Williams Hwy, State Route 24 between Millsboro and Rehoboth area;
•State Route 26 in the Millsboro and Dagsboro area;
•Redden Road State Route 40 between Georgetown and Bridgeville;
•U.S. Route 13 just south of the county line in the area of Greenwood Road;
•U.S. Route 13 north of Bethel Concord Road and south of Brickyard Road.

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