November is the most dangerous month of the year for deer-vehicle collisions in Illinois, according to insurance company State Farm. Such collisions are three times more likely to occur in November than they are on any day between Feb. 1 and Aug. 31.
Last year, the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office handled about 100 deer-related accidents – 14 percent of the total accidents handled by sheriff’s deputies that year.
Kerry Novak, park superintendent at Shabbona Lake State Park, said that the deer herd this year seems large. The second or third week of November is the peak of the deer’s rut, or breeding season, he said.
“They are moving around a lot more than they do other times of the year,” Novak said. The largely-nocturnal deer can roam several miles a night in search of a mate, often crossing roads or city streets in its search. When deer encounter the headlights of a moving vehicle, they often freeze or move erratically.
“A lot of times these accidents happen so fast that you don’t have time to stop,” said DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy Gary Dumdie.
However, there are steps that drivers can take to minimize their chances of hitting a deer. Dumdie advised drivers to pay close attention to the sides of the road. Deer often travel in groups of three or more; if a driver sees one deer cross the road, he or she should slow down while maintaining control of the vehicle in case other deer are following in the same path, he said.
“A lot of time we see people swerve to avoid a deer or other animal and they will lose control of their vehicle,” Dumdie said. Few deer collisions are fatal to occupants of the vehicle, but a sudden swerve at highway speeds could cause a fatal accident.
• Pay attention to deer crossing signs • Be especially alert at dawn and dusk, when deer are most active • Drive with high beams on as much as possible without impairing other drivers’ vision. The first indication of danger is the glow of a deer’s eyes in the headlights. • Slow down considerably if you see one or two deer cross a road. Deer often travel in groups. • Do not rely exclusively on car-mounted deer whistles. • If a collision with a deer is unavoidable, keep cool and maintain control of your vehicle. Never let your concern for a deer put human lives in danger.
If You Hit a Deer...
• Contact police if a person is injured or if there is more than $1,500 in property damage. • Do not attempt to remove deer from busy roads. Notify police if it is a hazard. • The driver or any Illinois resident may take possession of the deer. If the deer is taken to a taxidermist or a tannery, the person who claims the deer must call the Illinois Department of Natural Resources at 217-782-6431. • People who claim a deer hit on the road must keep a record of the time, date and location of the accident and the current location of the deer until it is consumed or changes possession.