As the whitetail hunting seasons arrive, people start looking at deer through different senses.
Some still see the beautiful, graceful animal with big brown eyes and soft fur turning from auburn red to chocolate brown.
Some start seeing lean cuts of brisket; tenderloin and rump roasts on the hoof. Some people start thinking about family get-togethers or honing their hunting skills.
Many have already won or lost the annual battle with co-workers, over who will take the last week of November as their vacation.
On the other side of the fence, however, homeowners are cursing deer as their plantings and expensive ornamentals are chewed to the nub.
Others are badly shaken as their damaged cars are towed to the nearest body shop.
With deer running rampant from the first sign of frost in November through winter snows of December, motorists are increasingly running the risk of putting the bam on Bambi.
Terrible as they are though on the highway, these vehicle collisions with animals often result in financial incentives for local body shops. In fact, several business owners are gaining positive publicity by serving as informational resources for their local media outlets.
In markets throughout the country, for instance, newspaper accounts and TV reports conveying the inherent dangers posed by car-deer crashes frequently include quotes from body shop personnel offering advice on avoiding these collisions—which can create considerable carnage.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle crashes each year, resulting in 150 occupant deaths, tens of thousands of injuries and more than $1 billion in damage to cars, trucks, and motorcycles.
The average cost per insurance claim for this kind of collision damage amounts to about $2,600, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). State Farm reports that a repair can exceed $10,000 when a higher-end vehicle meets up with a deer, moose, or elk.
And while these collisions can happen anytime, fall is the peak season for deer-car run-ins. That’s mainly because autumn is both mating season and hunting season; deer are more active and motivated to roam beyond their normal territory.
The problem, according to Department of Natural Resources officials, has become more acute as housing and highway development encroaches into previously pristine forests and fields.
As the wildlife habitat continues to shrink, accidents with deer and other animals are likely to increase, wildlife biologists say.
According to claim statistics from State Farm, the states with the highest number of accidents involving deer are Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, Minnesota, Virginia, Virginia, Indiana, Texas, and Wisconsin.
By all accounts, however, collisions between cars and deer are vastly underreported, with many drivers opting to quietly pay out-of-pocket for the repairs.
Yet deer cause more than 5 percent of all reportable driving mishaps in many states, according to motor vehicle accident records.
And though the percentage of road accidents involving deer are lower in the Mountain State, the animals still pose a problem for motorists, especially during the last quarter of the year, during fall and early winter, according to DNR records.
According to researchers, about half of deer-related crashes with vehicles occur on country and local roads, about a quarter on state roads, and only a small percentage on U.S. routes and interstates and in towns. The most dangerous hours for deer-vehicle accidents are from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
And though the deer-vehicle accidents cause few injuries compared with other crashes, during the past decade such deer-related mishaps are increasing at more than 10 percent a year and often result in extensive body damage to cars.
During the past few years, motorists and communities across the country have become increasingly concerned about deer-vehicle crashes. An estimated 1.5 million deer-vehicle mishaps occur in the United States each year, causing at least $1 billion in vehicle damage and killing about 150 humans and at least 1.5 million deer.
These totals are rising every year with the continued increase in both deer numbers and motor vehicle traffic.
It is difficult to estimate numbers of deer in America, but there is clear evidence that populations have increased over the past century, especially over the last three decades.
Deer numbers nationwide were estimated at about 2 million in 1900 and at 16 to 17 million buy the mid-1900s.
Other estimates placed the total U.S. deer population at 25 to 30 million at the end of the 20th century.
That’s a lot of venison in the wild, and a significant threat on the road. Drive carefully and be on the lookout, especially at night, wildlife biologists warn, adding, “We hope every hunter gets his buck, but not necessarily through his windshield.”.
Top o’ the morning!