There’s been a chill in the air that signals the arrival of autumn. In this area, this also means that deer are on the move. Whitetail deer, named for the white undersurface of the tail, are common throughout Missouri and Illinois. They live primarily in timbered areas, along the edges of clearings. Deer graze on mostly on grass, leaves, twigs, fruit, nuts, foliage, and farm crops such as corn and soybeans. Although it isn’t unusual to see deer in the daylight hours, they are considered nocturnal, especially where hunted. We most often see deer moving about at dawn and dusk.
Deer move most during the fall season because of their mating patterns. The rut, which refers to the peak of the mating season, is typically around mid-November, though it varies from year to year. This increases deer activity, As well, the change in available food sources also increases deer activity.
All this means that our roads become a bit more dangerous at this time of year. One of every 115 drivers in Missouri will have a collision with a deer. In Illinois, a driver’s odds are 1 in 214. The reported average cost is around $3000, not counting the risk of injury to you and your passengers. November boasts the highest number of deer collisions, with October as a close second.
How can you avoid a close encounter with these plentiful creatures? We have a few tips to help you stay safe during this season:
- Be aware. Know your surroundings and be alert where deer are known to be on the move. Obviously, deer crossing sign are a good clue that the area abounds with wildlife. However, deer patterns can change, so you should be aware of what attracts them. Deer typically live and move along the edges of timbered areas, so watch for them when you’re driving near the woods. You will often find them venturing out of the woods into a field that once held corn or beans. Like all animals, deer must have a water source, which they will visit often. In areas where development has eliminated habitat and food sources, be on extra alert. You will often see clover planted in medians or on hillsides by a highway; since deer love clover, you are in a particularly tricky spot.
- Timing is everything. Deer move mostly from sunset to midnight and in the hours before and after sunrise; drive extra carefully during these times.
- If you see one deer, there are almost always more nearby. Keep an eye out.
- Do not rely on deer whistles and/or reflectors that are widely marketed and sold to deter deer. There is no proof that they reduce your likelihood of an accident. It is much better to be prepared and alert.
- Use your high beams when possible; this improves your chances of seeing deer.
In our next blog, we will further explore avoiding a collision with a deer, and will discuss what to do in the event of such an accident.