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Deer-vehicle collisions increase this time of year

October 3, 2018

Take me home, country roads can take on a whole new meaning during the fall months. It can mean more like — take me home, country roads while I watch out for deer.

West Virginians are used to seeing deer along our roads. And unfortunately, we are used to the scene of dead deer along our roads and the hassle and frightening scenario of hitting one with our cars. Many of us live in rural places within the state and with that comes contact with the wilds of nature. Most of us have or know someone close to us that has hit a deer. Chances are, you have seen or heard the news that West Virginia is at the top of State Farm’s list for the likelihood of vehicle crashes involving a deer and has been for many years. So, deer collisions are not anything new to us and many are not surprised we are on the top of the list.

In fact, our WVDNR sends out a notice that urges motorists to exercise caution while driving during the fall months because vehicle collisions with deer typically increase during this time of year.

“Because West Virginia has an abundant white-tailed deer population, there are more opportunities for collisions, especially during the peak breeding season in October and November when deer are more active,” said Tyler Evans, DNR Wildlife Resources Section wildlife biologist. “On average, about 40 percent of deer-vehicle collisions in West Virginia take place between October and December.”

The state’s rugged terrain also contributes to collisions, as high-quality deer habitat often is in valleys where conditions allow for agricultural production and more natural food sources. Winding, hilly roads bordered by forests also reduce the distance drivers can see animals ahead, increasing the chances of collisions.

DNR urges motorists to observe the following driving tips:

• Be aware of your surroundings and make use of your peripheral vision. If you see a deer in the roadway, immediately reduce your speed and honk your horn using short blasts.

• Drive with your headlights on and use high beams whenever it is safe to do so.

• Drive at a reduced speed, especially during early morning and late evening hours when deer are more active.

• Do not swerve or leave your lane to avoid a deer. If you encounter a deer, press your brake pedal firmly and attempt to stop.

• Always drive defensively. The news from our WVDNR is very valid and helpful. But let me also remind you we have some of our state’s best and most qualified assisting in the conservation of our wildlife resources and their favorite species is deer. Our state’s hunters play a critical and first-hand role in wildlife conservation.

We have men, women and children out during every hunting season from archery, muzzleloader to rifle legally harvesting deer to help control the population to within guidelines set by the professionals in the field of study of whitetail management. I for one, who has personally hit several deer in my career as a licensed driver in the state, will gladly cheer on our hunters and will even happily join them in our active role in wildlife conservation.

In fact, we will spend our money and much of our free time contributing to wildlife conservation and are very happy to do so. We cherish our role in the system and the privilege is not taken lightly. We have much work to do and with archery season for deer already open, the time is now.

Chris Ellis of Fayetteville, W.Va., an outdoorsman and Marshall University graduate, is owner of Ellis Communications, a public relations agency serving the outdoor industry. Contact him at chris@elliscom.net.

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