MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – The state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife is reminding motorists to be alert for white-tailed deer crossing highways and local roads as days get shorter and deer become more active with mating season under way.
These animals have been involved "in thousands of collisions with motor vehicles in New Jersey each year, with the highest number occurring during the fall mating season,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Larry Herrighty. “We strongly urge all motorists to be particularly alert to the possibility of deer suddenly darting onto roadways and to be aware of some steps they can take to reduce the risk of serious injury to themselves or their passengers.”
Deer are apt to suddenly sprint onto roadways as bucks actively pursue does. This activity, known as the fall rut, is most pronounced in the very early morning and around sunset, when visibility can be difficult. Using caution becomes even more important when Daylight Saving Time ends Nov. 5, causing commutes to align with periods when deer are most active and lighting conditions can be most difficult for motorists.
For motorists, low levels of light and sun glare can make it very difficult to see deer that are about to cross the road. Multiple deer may cross the road at any given moment, usually in single file.
The following tips can help motorists stay safe during deer mating season:
- If you see a deer, slow down and pay attention to possible sudden movement. If the deer is in the road and does not move, do not drive around it. Wait for the deer to pass, and continue driving when the road is clear.
- Pay attention to “Deer Crossing” signs. Slow down when traveling through areas known to have a high concentration of deer so you will have ample time to stop if necessary.
- If you are traveling after dark, use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic or vehicles ahead. High beams will be reflected by the eyes of deer on or near roads. If you see one deer, be on guard: Others may be in the area. Deer typically move in family groups at this time of year and cross roads in a single-file line.
- Don’t tailgate. Remember: The driver in front of you might have to stop suddenly to avoid hitting a deer.
- Always wear a seatbelt, as required by law. Drive at a safe and sensible speed, accounting for weather, available lighting, traffic, curves and other road conditions.
- If a collision appears inevitable, do not swerve to avoid impact. The deer may suddenly counter-maneuver. Brake appropriately, but stay in your lane. Collisions are more likely to become fatal when a driver swerves to avoid a deer and instead collides with oncoming traffic or a fixed structure along the road.
- Immediately report any deer-vehicle collision to a local law enforcement agency.
- Obey the state’s hands-free device law or, better yet, avoid any distractions by refraining from using cellular devices altogether while driving.
Motorists are encouraged to contact the Department of Transportation about any dead deer they find along the state highway system, and can share information with others at www.nj.gov/transportation/commuter/potholeform.shtm.
Municipal and county governments are responsible for removal of dead deer from roads they maintain.
For more information about white-tailed deer in New Jersey, visit www.njfishandwildlife.com/deer.htm.
For more information on the Community-Based Deer Management Program, visit www.njfishandwildlife.com/cbdmp.htm.