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Numbers Show Deer Collisions Frequent And Deadly In Pa.

By Alex Geli
Proquest LLC

Staff Writer

ageli@lnpnews.com

Bambi might be cute, but he sure can be destructive.

The late-spring and early summer months of May, June and July are a period when explorative fawns cause a surge in auto accidents, according to data provided by PennDOT.

It is the second-to-most dangerous time of the year; the fall months of October, November and December - the peak mating season, or rut - sparks an immense amount of collisions.

"The bucks are just constantly on the move looking for does," said Greg Graham, a wildlife conservation officer with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. "They're covering a lot of territory."

During those three fall months in 2013, there was a rash of accidents reported to PennDOT.

Crashes involving deer (this includes hit deer and deer-related accidents) reached 4,284 and caused 724 injuries and six fatalities in the state. There were 105 crashes, 16 injuries and zero deaths in Lancaster County in that time.

The result of the fall months' merriment - the fawns - cause the second-highest total in injuries each year.

In the late-spring and early summer months, there were 1,693 reported accidents, 469 injuries and a year-high 11 fatalities. There were 27 crashes, seven injuries and zero deaths in Lancaster County during that time.

The annual totals for Pennsylvania, according to PennDOT, were 8,163 crashes, 1,821 injuries and 25 deaths. There were 187 crashes, 32 injuries and zero deaths in the county in that span.

These numbers come after State Farm Insurance reported in 2013 that Pennsylvania was the nation's most at-risk state for collisions with deer. The Keystone State amassed an estimated $400 million in automotive damage last year because of it - and July was a big factor.

In fact, July had the highest total death number in the state related to accidents involving deer, with five.

Why?

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"Now you have fawns that are up and moving," Graham said. "You have a lot more deer as well."

With the transition from spring to summer, there also comes an abundance of something else: corn.

"Corn is significant," Graham said. "When all the corn is high enough, there's just going to be a huge number of deer that are in the cornfields."

Dennis Warfel, another wildlife conservation officer with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said dawn and dusk are the most dangerous times of day because the deer travel from wooded areas in the morning to feed on the cornfields at night.

"They're moving to the food," he said.

When the paths of deer and automobiles intersect, drivers need to be smart.

"Slow down, stop, let it get across because there might be another one behind it coming," Warfel said. "A lot of times you'll see an adult come out, and the fawns are right behind it."

What you shouldn't do is swerve to try to evade the deer: "You shouldn't try to avoid the deer," Warfel said. "You could cause another accident."

Warfel compared the street-roaming deer to children on a slippery slide, further emphasizing the need to step on the brake.

"With their hooves, they can't get a good grip to this macadam," he said. "It's kind of like somebody rolling on roller skates."

Graham said being aware of when and where deer are most likely to cross a street is paramount.

"There are plenty of areas out there that they are crossing regularly," he said, calling them "corridors."

Graham advises being extra careful around deer-crossing areas, streams, woodlands, fields and farmland.

For those who are unable to react in time - whether it's because of their lead foot or the deer's temporary immobility - the first things to do, according to Graham, are to pull over, put the vehicle's emergency flashers on and call police.

The next step would be to don a pair of gloves or any other protection and get the deer carcass off the road.

"The deer itself lying in the roadway is a hazard," Graham said. "Don't be involved in a secondary collision."

Ultimately, though, that's up to the driver: leave it there for someone to pick up or take it home for the cheapest venison of a lifetime - that is, if the car isn't totaled.

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"A lot of people like venison," Graham said, saying the driver's only responsibility afterward would be to follow the law by reporting within 24 hours that they have kept the deer.

Graham, who said the Pennsylvania Game Commission documents 45,000 killed or injured deer on the roadways every year, has become all too familiar with the scene of a deer and car colliding.

"That's a significant number of deer that are affected by Pennsylvania's roadways. It's a shame," he said. "It is a significant (problem) here."

Copyright: (c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.
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