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How To Avoid Colliding With Deer and Moose

Updated on November 12, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.

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The Toll Is High In Damage, Injuries And Cost

Spring is the time, as the poets say, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love. However, fall is the time when a young buck’s or bull's fancy turns to thoughts of love, and that spells danger for everyone else.

Autumn is generally considered the season when most collisions with deer, moose and elk occur. Such accidents can happen anytime throughout the year, of course, but they're particularly frequent between mid-September and the end of the year, and for a variety of reasons.

For one, breeding bucks are scraping the felt off their antlers (or are they horns, and is there a difference anyway?) in preparation for the mating season, known as the rut.

Bachelors are wandering aimlessly trying to A: gain the courage to challenge a breeding buck, B: avoid breeding bucks and C: maybe sneak a tryst with a cute little doe.

In response to variations in the photoperiod (amount of daylight) and fluctuations in temperature, wild animals are gearing up for the deep freeze; growing winter coats and bulking up on food.

So, deer are going after corn, apples, acorns and other bounty from fall's cornucopia, and the last of the natural vegetation available to them. When that’s gone, they’ll come for your ornamental plantings.

Certainly none of them are paying any attention to traffic.

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The Autumn Sun Is Not Your Friend

As we in the Northern Hemisphere move towards the winter solstice (the day on which we have the shortest amount of daylight), between December 20 and December 23, the sun is rising later and setting earlier, interfering with the morning and afternoon commute. If your route to work is easterly, the rising sun is right in your eyes.

Conversely, as you commute home in a westerly direction, the setting sun is right in your eyes. It's what the radio traffic reporters refer to as solar glare. And as luck would have it, dawn and dusk are the riskiest periods for deer/vehicle collisions.

The Costs Are Staggering

In terms of human injury, loss of life, costs of medical treatment, vehicle repairs, and miscellaneous expenses, the numbers are alarming.

According to estimates by the Insurance Information Institute, there are more than 1.23 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in approximately 200 occupant deaths, tens of thousands of injuries and over $4 billion just in vehicle damage.

They estimate that another billion dollars are spent on medical payments for injuries to people in the car, and out-of-pocket expenses paid by vehicle owners. Now you’re talking more than 4 and a half billion dollars!

Statistically, the average claim for deer-vehicle collisions is around $3,900. A lot depends on the type of vehicle involved and the severity of the damage. But when you factor in claims involving bodily injury, the average rises to over $11,000.

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How Human Activity Factors Into The Problem

Highways and high tension lines are a major cause of wildlife deaths because they fragment wildlife territories, which forces animals to cross the roads in search of food, cover, mates, and nesting or denning sites.

By breaking up wildlife habitats we’re also cramming more animals into areas that are just too small for nature to support.

Not only that, but construction and the actual use of roads alters the environment in the area both chemically and physically, plus it allows for the introduction of potentially invasive species.

Once road construction is complete, commercial or residential development often follows, and that crowds out the animals even more.

A number of European countries have taken the lead in reconnecting wildlife habitats fragmented by roads.

Overpasses have been designed and constructed specifically to funnel wildlife across major highways. They also build amphibian tunnels and underpasses for small mammals such as otters and hedgehogs.

While some can accommodate both wildlife and people, others are just for the animals, and include small ponds, wetlands and fruiting shrubs.

These structures in Alberta, Canada, were built to enable animals to safely cross the highway.
These structures in Alberta, Canada, were built to enable animals to safely cross the highway. | Source

Since the United States isn't there yet, we have to be on the lookout for critters crossing the roads. And that includes within urban and suburban neighborhoods as well as along rural highways.

While many of us have reduced the population of squirrels and opossums with our vehicles, not that many of us have collided with a deer, and we want to keep it that way.

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Moose Present A Different Set Of Dangers

If you live in an area with a moose population, you should be aware of the special problems they pose.

They breed in September and October and, like the deer, are preoccupied with the reproductive imperative, making them both bold and careless.

Between dusk and dawn, moose are harder to see because of their dark color and their height.

In most cases, their head is above the beam of headlights, thus you don't see the glow of their eyes like you do with deer.

Also with moose, their physical structure makes them more likely to injure or kill the occupants of a vehicle that collides with them.

Their long legs and top heavy bodies make it easier for them to be propelled over the hood and directly into the windshield.

And finally, moose are less likely than deer to move from the road as your vehicle approaches.

10 Things To Keep In Mind For Your Safety

1. The "season" for deer/auto collisions is from mid-September to late December, for moose, it's September and October, although such accidents have been known to occur at any time of the year.

2. Dawn and dusk are the most dangerous times because that's when the deer are more active and visibility is at its worst. Phenomena such as solar glare from the rising or setting sun, and the dim light of dawn and dusk make it difficult to see clearly.

3. Deer often won't just dart across the road. In their frightened state they may become disoriented and run halfway across and then back again, they may run down the middle of the road, or they may just come to a screeching halt, frozen by the glare of your headlights. Moose simply may not be as quick to move out of your way.

4. Deer often travel in small herds, so if you see one cross the road ahead of you, be on the lookout for others that may be following not too far behind.

5. When driving at night, use your high beams whenever there's no on-coming traffic. The deer's eyes will glow when picked up by headlights thanks to a lining in the back of the eye that acts like a mirror. Because moose are much taller, their heads are usually above headlight level, so you may not see a glow from their eyes.

6. Slow down and give one long blast on your horn to frighten deer or moose up ahead. If there's one in your path, brake firmly but stay in your lane. Serious injuries and damage can occur when you swerve to avoid a deer and hit another car or go off the road.

7. Check with your insurance company about coverage. A collision with a deer is usually covered under the comprehensive part of your policy, but if you cause other damage or injury, that usually comes under your collision coverage, however you might be found at fault.

8. If you hit a deer or moose don't try to help them in any way. Injured and frightened, they can cause serious injury to you, and can further injure themselves. Get your car off the road if you can, and call the police.

9. Wear your seat belt. Statistics indicate that most people injured in a deer/vehicle collision were not wearing their seat belts.

10. Don't rely on devices such as deer whistles, reflectors and fences. There's no accepted proof that those devises reduce auto/deer collisions.

Answer To "Are They Horns Or Antlers"

Deer have antlers. Antlers are made of bone and, on most animals, are branched. Each year the animal sheds them, usually right after the rut.

Horns, on the other hand consist of a bony center that's coated with keratin, are not branched and are not shed. Keratin, by the way, is what our fingernails and hair are made of.

In recent years shed antlers, and horns removed from animals slaughtered for food, have found favor as dog chew treats. You'll find them in most pet supply stores. They're expensive, but they last a long time.

Have You Ever Struck A Deer With Your Vehicle?

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© 2012 Bob Bamberg

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    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Nadene, yeah, you guys are loaded with them down there! For a few years you were number 1 in deer/vehicle collisions but you were fourth last year.

      I started checking stats just before Y2K and the first column I wrote informed my readers that Massachusetts had over 4,000 such collisions according to a state environmental group.

      That group referenced the Insurance Information Institute so I went on their web site. Holy crap! That year Michigan had over 86,000 and many other states had tens of thousands of them. I had to modify the column because I almost made it sound like we were near crisis proportions! What a dumb-slap that was! Thanks for commenting. Regards, Bob

    • Nadene Seiters profile image

      Nadene Seiters 

      5 years ago from Elverson, PA

      I drove behind a deer for about half a mile before she had the epiphany that she should veer off into the trees. It was a very long half a mile. There's a ton of deer around my home and I always make sure to keep an eye out for them. Great article!

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      6 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hello, mbergo, thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. I think you were fortunate to escape alive from a high speed collision with a moose. Not much chance of that happening in Brazil, although you do have to watch out for those jaguars...the four-legged, in addition to the four-wheeled kind. Thanks for commenting. Regards, Bob

    • mbergo profile image

      mbergo 

      6 years ago from Porto Alegre, Brazil

      I had a front collision with a moose around 20 years ago in Norway and the timing fits with what you said. In my case it also was foggy and the speed was excessive.

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