FRANKFORT, Ky. – Cooler temperatures and shorter days bring out the fall colors that paint Kentucky’s landscape in warm hues before winter arrives.
At about the same time, the breeding instinct in whitetail deer stirs, putting them on the move and more frequently into the paths of motorists.
About half of all collisions between vehicles and deer in Kentucky occur over the last three months of the calendar year, according to statistics compiled by Kentucky State Police. More of these collisions are reported in November than in any other month.
“October, November and December make up the main breeding season for whitetail deer,” said Gabe Jenkins, deer and elk program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The peak is in November.”
Deer are most active around dawn and dusk as they look for mates, he said. State police data from 2009-2013 shows most vehicle-deer collisions in November occur from 5-8 a.m. and 5 p.m.-midnight.
“Be aware of the timing and time of day and your surroundings,” Jenkins said. “Think about where you see deer and keep that in mind.”
Yellow highway signs identify deer crossing hot spots. Stay alert and be cautious as you drive through these areas. At night, use high-beam headlights when appropriate. High beams can help a driver see twice as far.
Should you encounter a deer in the road, slow down but only steer to avoid hitting the animal if it can be done safely. Swerving can confuse the deer even more and increase the likelihood of a crash, Jenkins said. Allow the deer to leave the roadway but keep in mind that other deer may be in the immediate area.
Above all, remember to wear your seat belt. It’s the law in Kentucky. Most people injured or killed in vehicle-deer collisions were not wearing a safety belt, according to state police.
The 2,985 vehicle-deer collisions reported last year accounted for less than 3 percent of all vehicle collisions statewide, according to state police data. There were no fatalities resulting from vehicle collisions with deer in the state in 2012 or 2013, and the number of people injured in these types of crashes in Kentucky has decreased every year since 2008.
“We’ve worked with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet over the years to identify high-risk areas,” Jenkins said. “Transportation crews have cleared areas along the roadways to give motorists a better field of view to see deer and to be more aware of their surroundings.”
Biologists estimate Kentucky has about 1 million deer and attribute the increased movement in fall to breeding activity, not hunting pressure. Hunting lowers deer density.
Some of the highest collision rates are found in counties with high deer densities. Boone County led the state the previous five years with an average of 154 vehicle-deer collisions per year followed by Hopkins (116), Campbell (103), Jefferson (100) and Hardin (95) counties, according to state police data.
Of the 10 counties with the highest average of vehicle-deer collisions from 2009-2013, according to state police data, more than half are classified by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife as Zone 1 counties. The department sets deer hunting season dates and bag limits by zone. In a Zone 1 county, a hunter may harvest an unlimited number of does (female deer) so long as they have purchased the appropriate additional deer permits.
“A Zone 1 county is where we’re trying to get a reduction in the deer herd,” Jenkins said. “We realize there are too many and we’re trying to give our hunters ample opportunity to take as many antlerless deer as they can. Does are what drive the population – the more does our hunters can take in Zone 1, the better we do with population control.”
More information about vehicle collisions with deer, including statistics and driving tips, is available online at kentuckystatepolice.org/deerauto.htm.