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Drivers Beware: Deer Mating Season

Experts say white-tailed deer will be more active, wandering roadways during the next few months.

With deer breeding season in full-swing, motorists should be extra cautious of the four-legged beauties, wildlife experts say. 

The state Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife is urging motorists to be alert for white-tailed deer on roads across the state, especially during morning and evening commutes when visibility may be poor and deer are more active, according to a release from the DEP.

“White-tailed deer are on the move and unpredictable during this season,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Chanda. “Deer are much more likely to dart into roads without warning at this time of year. Drivers should be extra alert to avoid collisions that could result in injuries and damage to their vehicles.”

According to the release, Deer movements related to breeding are beginning now and will pick up in the coming weeks.

Studies show the peak of the mating season in the state occurs in late October and throughout November and December in all regions of the New Jersey, the releae says.

"Triggered by shorter days and cooler weather, deer disperse and move around considerably as they search for mates," the release says.

Deer behavior is likely to be sudden and unpredictable.

"In many instances, deer will wander closer to and onto roadways. They may suddenly stop in the middle of a road, crossing and even re-crossing it. The danger is particularly pronounced at dawn and dusk when many people are commuting to and from work. Visibility resulting from low light or sun glare may be difficult during these times," the release says. 

Commuters should be especially alert and drive with additional caution -- especially when daylight saving time ends on Nov. 4, the release says.

Normal driver commuting times will more closely align with peak deer activity periods after this time.

“This is a tricky time of year for drivers,’’ said DEP Supervising Wildlife Biologist Carol Stanko. “There are probably as many deer killed in New Jersey each year by cars and trucks than as by hunters.’’

There are an estimated 110,000 white-tailed deer in huntable areas of New Jersey, with counless others in places where hunting is not allowed, the release says.

The release also explained that there were 30,866 deer struck by vehicles in the state in 2010. 

The DEP offers the following tips to help motorists stay safe:

  • If you spot a deer, slow down and pay attention to possible sudden movement. If the deer doesn’t move, don’t go around it. Wait for the deer to pass and the road is clear.
  • Pay attention to “Deer Crossing” signs. They are there for a reason. 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. 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 single-file. Female deer are being chased by bucks and during breeding phase are often unaware of traffic.
  • 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, taking into account weather, available lighting, traffic, curves and other road conditions.
  • If a collision appears inevitable, do not swerve to avoid impact. The deer may counter-maneuver suddenly. Brake firmly, 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.
  • Report any deer-vehicle collision to a local law enforcement agency immediately.

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