Charles "Skip" Vezzetti has traveled down enough lonely highways to know that when love - or something like it - is in the air, there's no stopping a beast's primal urge.
Except perhaps a car or a truck.
"Every year we see the same thing," Vezzetti said. "The does are running away from the bucks and the bucks have only one thing on their mind, much less avoiding cars, and so we do see a spike in deer incidents in the fall."
Vezzetti should know.
He's the superintendent of Rockland County's Highway Department and his workers have the unpleasant task of cleaning up after a fatal encounter between deer and car.
Vezzetti said his workers retrieve between 150 and 200 deer carcasses from county roads ever year, most during the mating season - also known as the rut - in October and November, when deer are so blinded by desire they forget to look both ways.
This has been a particularly busy year for deer strikes in New York and New Jersey is close to matching last year's figures.
New York state police say they've seen an increase of more than 570 strikes this year, from around 9,201 in 2018 to more than 9,774 so far this year.
The largest jump has been on roads patrolled by Troop F, which includes Greene, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster counties. There were 1,004 deer strikes in 2018 and 1,167 so far this year.
On Sunday, a Greenville man was critically injured around noon when his 2009 Harley Davidson motorcycle hit a deer that veered into his path on Route 212 in Saugerties, in Ulster County. Kyle Lewis, 49, was airlifted to Albany Medical Center, where he was listed in critical but stable condition.
The next-biggest jump was in Troop K, which includes Columbia, Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties. It's seen an increase of 117, from 626 in 2018 to 743 this year.
In New Jersey, the Department of Transportation removed 6,035 deer carcasses from interstate and state highways in 2018. At the end of October, maintenance crews had removed 3,974 deer carcasses.
And, while the state doesn't break out deer-on-car collisions, the Garden State has tallied an increase in animal-related collisions on municipal, county, state and interstate roads. Last year, there were 10,199 animal-involved collisions, up 5% from the year before (9,683) and 25% compared to five years ago when the total was 8,132.
Deer and highways don't mix
Wildlife experts say deer herds have remained high in populated suburban counties where hunting restrictions limit the deer take. Add to the mix high-speed highways next to densely wooded areas like the Palisades Interstate Parkway and you have a recipe for death.
"Given the limited amount of deer hunting in Rockland and Westchester counties and increased deer abundance, along with a high density of roads, there is a greater probability for the deer population to interact with cars," said Paul Curtis, a professor and wildlife specialist in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
Curtis said deer populations can double in size over a two- or three-year span.
Westchester allows only bow hunting of deer and while Rockland allows hunting by bow, shotgun or handgun, it restricts shooting to areas 500 feet or more from a dwelling.
Harvest data from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation says deer populations have remained relatively stable in Rockland and Westchester counties but are still above desired levels.
Most strikes occur at dusk and dawn, when deer are most active. Signs along roads in both states warn motorists to use care at those times of the day.
Trooper Steven Nevel, who works out of Troop F, counsels drivers to knock their speed down by 10 mph or more, especially at night along roads next to wooded areas.
The Palisades can be so busy with deer Nevel tells drivers to just take another route.
If that doesn't work ...
Nevel has seen enough accidents to know that swerving out of the way is not the way to go. Motorists who do may end up crashing into an immovable object like a tree.
"Those to me are the scariest ones," Nevel said. "You see it (the deer), hit your brakes, slow down and drive straight through it ... The last thing you want to do is put your life in danger to swerve."
Nationally, deaths linked to animal collisions with vehicles have surged since 1975 when there were 89 and reached a high of 223 in 2007, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In 2017, there were 211 such collisions.
A 2005 study of 147 fatal crashes in nine states between 2000 and 2002 found that the vast majority - 77% - were due to deer strikes.
Vezzetti said there's no telling where you'll see a deer in Rockland County. "This time of year they're all over the place. We get them in Clarkstown, Orangetown and Ramapo," he said.
They seem to enjoy people's yards. "They have a delicate palate," Vezzetti said. "They love the expensive plants that people put around their houses. They're much tastier than what's in the woods."
But it's on the road where they cause real trouble. He recalls having to nudge away a deer as it ran beside him while he was riding his motorcycle.
A few years back he was driving to work on the Palisades when he saw a dead deer lying on the side of the road. He turned around and loaded it into his truck.
He had the buck's head mounted with a plaque that memorializes his reckless pursuit.
"People say, 'Oh, where'd you shoot that,' " Vezzetti said. "I said, 'I didn't shoot it. He forgot to look both ways.' "