Drivers, be aware of deer: Mating season means more animals in roadways

photo by: Richard Gwin

A deer crosses a road north of Lawrence during the morning of Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014.

I’ve seen quite a few deer on my drive into work lately on the Kansas Turnpike — one on the back of a trailer, a couple in the median about a car-length from each other, and one right in the middle of my lane (well, part of one).

Luckily I wasn’t the driver who turned any of those deer into roadkill, but unfortunately someone else out there did. It’s that time of year, authorities say, when deer are most likely to be out on the road.

Kansas typically sees the highest number of deer-vehicle crashes in mid-November, when the “rut” — or mating season — peaks, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol. Also in the fall, deer are increasingly active seeking new food sources and shelter, as their habitat transforms with crops being harvested and leaves falling from trees and shrubs.

photo by: Richard Gwin

A deer crosses a road north of Lawrence during the morning of Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014.

Some numbers:

• The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has been handling on average four or five deer-related crashes a day in the past couple weeks, the office said in a Facebook post this week.

• 10,235, or 16 percent, of all 62,150 vehicle crashes reported in Kansas in 2016 were deer-related, according to Kansas Department of Transportation figures shared by the highway patrol. In those crashes, seven people were killed.

• Douglas County had 262 deer-related crashes in 2016, in which 14 people were injured, according to the highway patrol.

And some safety tips for drivers, from the Turnpike and other authorities:

• Be especially cautious from sunset to midnight and shortly before and after sunrise. This is when deer are most active.

• If you see one deer, watch for others. They seldom run alone.

• At night, use high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic.

• To frighten deer away, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast.

• Avoid exaggerated maneuvers to avoid a deer in the road. “If you are unfortunate enough to have a deer enter the highway in front of your car, it is best to hit the animal and not swerve to avoid it,” highway patrol Lt. Adam Winters said, in the news release. “Often we find more serious crashes occur when you swerve to miss the deer, potentially losing control of your vehicle, leaving the road or veering into oncoming traffic.”

• If you do hit a deer, pull over on the shoulder or nearby parking lot, turn on your flashers and call law enforcement, the sheriff’s office suggests. Stay buckled up, but if you must wait outside your car stand as far away from the road as possible. Leave the deer alone, law enforcement will handle it.

A deer alert factsheet from the Kansas Turnpike Authority.

— I’m the Journal-World’s public safety reporter. Reach me by email at or by phone at 785-832-7187. I’m also on Twitter, @saramarieshep.