(WJW) – Drivers beware — if you haven’t noticed, it is that time of year when deer are running around “looking for love.”
That means there’s a greater chance that one could unexpectedly cross your path while you are behind the wheel.
Officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources say the peak of deer breeding season was actually around Veterans Day, but of course deer do not look at a calendar.
They say there are still lots of deer out there and drivers need to remain vigilant and aware.
“We have a lot of people on the road at any given time and we do post a healthy population of white tail deer as well, so there’s going to be interaction,” says Jamey Emmert, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
But this time of year, it is more likely to happen. If a deer jumps into your path while you are driving, law enforcement and wildlife experts say it is better to hit the animal, rather than swerve to avoid it.
“Certainly impact isn’t ideal, but losing control of a vehicle can result in something more serious. Losing control can send you into an oncoming lane or off into a ditch or further and causing even more serious injury,” said Emmert.
But sometimes, even that isn’t enough to avoid tragedy. Earlier this month, a motorcyclist was killed in Geauga County when he hit a deer in the road. The impact threw him from the bike into a commercial vehicle.
In the past five years, there have been nearly 109,000 deer versus vehicle crashes in Ohio, resulting in seven fatalities, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Just this year, there have been roughly 16,500 crashes statewide, causing four deaths.
In Northeast Ohio this year, Stark County has experienced the most deer-vehicle collisions at 500. Tuscarawas County has recorded more than 400, Lorain County nearly 400 and even the more urban Cuyahoga County has seen more than 200 deer-related crashes.
“In Stark County, for instance, there’s a lot of habitat, there’s a lot of agriculture and there’s plenty of deer and plenty of motorists. There’s a major highway system, Interstate 77, so those are definitely contributing factors to seeing more collisions than other counties,” said the ODNR spokesperson.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources advises motorists to pay attention to the yellow “deer crossing” signs, which they say are strategically placed.
“Deer are animals of routine, they’re creatures of habit, like so many wild animals and they tend to cross even during rut, even when they’re more active and more mobile, they are likely to take the same routes,” said Emmert.
ODNR officials say there are probably more accidents than we know of because many times if someone hits a deer and no one is injured or the vehicle is not damaged, they do not report it.
Officials say deer are most active at dusk and dawn and advise people to pay attention, go the speed limit and if you see one deer, there are probably more around.