Deer/human interactions increase with seasonal change

ALPENA — As the number of daylight hours shrink northern Michigan’s season continues to change into autumn the interaction with deer and humans will increase.

That interaction could be hunters with bows, shotguns or rifles, but also from people driving from place to place, according to Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Field Operations Manager Brian Mastenbrook.

He said autumn is mating season for whitetail deer and bucks are moving a lot more in the season in an attempt to find does.

According to Michigan State Police statistics, there are nearly 50,000 reported vehicle-deer crashes each year in the state. Eighty percent of the crashes occur on two-lane roadways between dusk and dawn. Officials said the most serious crashes are when people swerve to avoid deer and hit another motorist or fixed object or during a rollover crash.

Mastenbrook said this time of year deer become more active during the evening hours and a lot of the day as their mating season progresses.

“They are active for more of the day,” he said. “It’s also coinciding with there being more traffic when it’s dark because of there being shorter days. There are more cars on the road when deer are moving, and that leads to more accidents.”

Although it is impossible to avoid deer on the roadways, Mastenbrook said there are areas that often have fewer animals traveling around trying to find mates.

“I actually changed some of my routes from some of my normal places. I know roads where deer cross a lot. I avoid those roads where I can. If I am going down one of those roads at night I am especially careful,” he said.

Michigan State Police Sgt. Joe Richards said it is a good idea for drivers to slow down on roadways at night and be aware of one’s surroundings more when out driving.

“Pay a little bit more attention to the ditches and the wood lines that you’re approaching, those animals can come out anytime, especially with hunters scaring them out of the woods,” Richards said.

If in the event a motorists does hit and kill a deer they can keep the animal if they follow proper channels, Richards said.

“The first thing you should do is stop and take a look at the vehicle and see if it’s safe to drive. Sometimes there is damage caused that can lead to bigger problems,” Richards said.

He said the animal should be moved from the roadway to avoid further accidents.

“If it’s in the roadway and you’re unable to safely move it, notify your local central dispatch center and they can send someone out to move it safely,” he said. “If your car is driveable we would have you come to our office depending on where you hit it, or the sheriff department, or if you hit one in the city limits go to the local department.”

Richards said this is for records and insurance purposes and most insurance companies require a police report before repairing deer damage.

“If it’s after business hours report the deer that you hit, and then the following business day you can come and make your report, when doing so the driver and the vehicle need to be brought to the office,” he said.

Richards said police must issue a permit to keep the killed animal. He said it is illegal to keep a deer killed in a vehicle crash without the permit, which is issued by law enforcement.

Jason Ogden can be reached via email at jogden@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Jason on Twitter @jo_alpenanews.

MSP deer avoidance tips

∫ Stay aware, awake, and sober.

∫ Deer are herd animals and frequently travel in single file. If you see one deer cross the road, chances are there are more waiting.

∫ Be alert for deer, especially at dawn and dusk. If you see one, slow down.

∫ Don’t rely on gimmicks, flashing your high-beam headlights or honking your horn to deter deer.

∫ Don’t swerve. Brake firmly, hold onto the steering wheel, and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop.

∫ Pull off the road, turn on your emergency flashers, and be cautious of other traffic if you exit your vehicle.

∫ Report the crash to the nearest police agency and your insurance company.