With the autumn white-tailed deer breeding season upon us, state officials are urging motorists to exercise caution on the state’s roadways.
“Drivers should be extra alert to avoid collisions that could result in injuries and damage to their vehicles, as deer movements related to breeding have begun and will pick up in the coming weeks,” a state Department of Environmental Protection advisory warns.
Shorter days and cooler weather trigger the fall mating season, dispersing deer as they search for mates.
“Studies indicate the peak mating season for deer in New Jersey runs from late October, throughout November, and into mid-December in all regions of the state, beginning earliest in northern regions,” the release states.
Deer activity is particularly amplified during dusk and dawn, corresponding with the daily work commute, according to the advisory. With daylight savings time ending on November 3, regular commuting times will align more with peak deer activity.
The threat is not just limited to areas that typically experience deer darting across roadways. Jerry Meaney, publisher of Barnegat Bay Island, NJ on Facebook, reported that a deer recently crossed in front of his car in Bay Head, an oceanfront municipality in northern Ocean County.
Motorists are encouraged to alert the state’s Department of Transportation to any roadside dead deer by utilizing this website.
The following tips from the Department of Environmental Protection are offered to help motorists stay safe:
If you spot a deer, slow down and pay attention to possible sudden movement. If the deer doesn’t move, don’t go around it. Wait for the deer to pass and the road is clear.
Pay attention to “Deer Crossing” signs. Slow down when traveling through areas known to have a high concentration of deer so you will have ample time to stop if necessary.
If you are traveling after dark, use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic. High beams will be reflected by the eyes of deer on or near roads.
If you see one deer, be on guard: others may be in the area. Deer typically move in family groups at this time of year and cross roads single-file. Female deer are being chased by bucks and during breeding phase are often unaware of traffic.
Don’t tailgate. Remember: the driver in front of you might have to stop suddenly to avoid hitting a deer.
Always wear a seatbelt, as required by law. Drive at a safe and sensible speed, taking into account weather, available lighting, traffic, curves and other road conditions.
If a collision appears inevitable, do not swerve to avoid impact. The deer may counter-maneuver suddenly. Brake appropriately, but stay in your lane. Collisions are more likely to become fatal when a driver swerves to avoid a deer and instead collides with oncoming traffic or a fixed structure along the road.
Report any deer-vehicle collision to a local law enforcement agency immediately.
For more information about white-tailed deer in New Jersey, visit this NJ Fish and Wildlife resource.