DNR urges commuters take extra caution on roadways this season

Thu, 10/25/2007 - 5:13pm
By: The Citizen

Fall breeding lends to increased automobile collisions

With an estimated 50,000 deer-car collisions annually in Georgia, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) advises commuters 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 — WRD offers motorists some tips and information to help avoid potential collisions.

“With the deer population hovering around 1.2 million statewide and the continued urbanization and development in and around a number of the state’s metropolitan centers, deer-car collisions are occurring more and more often around urban/suburban areas,” explains WRD Sr. Wildlife Biologist Don McGowan. “Hunting is oftentimes mistakenly blamed for deer-car collisions 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, as we begin to “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.

WRD advises drivers of the following:

· Unpredictable: 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.

· One deer usually means more: Take caution and slow down when a deer crosses the road in front of you or another vehicle. Deer generally travel in groups, so if one crosses, be prepared that others may follow.

· Time of day: As deer are most active at dawn and dusk, they are typically seen roadside during the early morning and late evening — the same times most people are commuting to and from work.

· Time of year: 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. Given Georgia’s extended drought situation, drivers should be on the lookout for deer.

· Minimize damage: If a deer or other animal runs in front of your car, slow down as much as possible to minimize damage. Resist the urge to swerve to avoid the deer; this may cause further damage, either sending you off the road or causing a collision with another car. If an accident occurs, alert the police as soon as possible.

WRD encourages motorists to take extra caution when on the road this fall, especially at night when sight distance is limited. For more information on deer-car collisions in Georgia or to learn more about white-tailed deer or deer season, visit www.georgiawildlife.com, contact a local WRD Game Management Office or call (770) 918-6416.

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