This time of year, deer have one thing on their minds — and it’s not avoiding a confrontation with your front bumper.
No, they’re looking for love.
“Right about now, they’re getting excited about the mating season,” said Lloyd Fox, big game coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “They’re somewhat oblivious to everything else that’s going on.”
Deer will stop at almost nothing to procreate, least of all a road. With deer activity higher than any other time of year, fall is one of the riskiest times for deer-vehicle collisions.
The Kansas Insurance Department on Monday issued a reminder to motorists to be on the lookout, especially around sunrise and sunset.
“Defensive driving is always important, but this time of year it’s extremely important,” Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said in the news release.
Deer mating season usually begins in mid-October, peaks in mid-November and continues into January, Fox said.
Mother Nature has it all planned out. Shorter days kick deer’s mating hormones into gear, Fox said. Conceiving in the fall means deer will give birth in the spring, once it’s warm enough for newborns to survive. And if all the deer mate around the same time, they’ll flood the predator community with fawns so more of the offspring will survive.
In the fall, does are roaming and eating more than ever to prepare for pregnancy.
And bucks, well, they have one-track minds.
Bucks have already started jockeying for position by pushing each other around and marking their territory with scent, pawing the ground and rubbing against things, Fox said. Soon they’ll begin chasing does and fighting over them with other bucks, sometimes to the death. They’re so intent on mating, they barely eat.
“Prior to this, the males were usually laying around, eating a little and chewing their cud, walking a little bit and laying down again,” Fox said. “And it’s that movement that causes the accidents.”
“They’re not paying attention to anything but the does.”
Pretty much the only thing Mother Nature didn’t account for is highways and the humans barreling down them.
Deer are most active half an hour before sunrise and after sunset, Fox said. Not only is that when humans have the poorest eyesight, but in the fall and winter the deer’s rush hour coincides with ours.
To avoid a deer-vehicle collision, the Insurance Department suggests the following.
• Stay alert, wear seat belts and drive at a sensible speed for conditions.
• Watch for the reflection of eyes and deer silhouettes on the shoulder.
• Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, fences and reflectors to deter deer.
• At night, use high-beam headlights when there’s no oncoming traffic. High beams will help illuminate eyes of deer by the road.
• If a deer enters or approaches your path, brake firmly but stay in your lane. Many more serious accidents occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit other vehicles or lose control of their cars.
• If you see one deer, assume there are more nearby.
• If you do hit a deer, immediately report it to law enforcement if the deer is blocking the roadway and poses a danger to other motorists. If you’re unsure whether the animal is dead, keep your distance, as an injured wild animal with sharp hooves can inflict serious injury.