By MAUREEN PICHÉ
State and county officials are warning Canton-Potsdam motorists that the car-deer accident season is in full swing and the Rt. 11 corridor is one of the most likely places in the area to experience one.
Deer mating season means the animals are on the move at dusk and dawn, according to state Department of Environmental Conservation officials. And the end of Daylight Savings Time Nov. 7 means more drivers are on the road during peak encounter times, says St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells.
“This time of year definitely keeps the 911 dispatchers busy,” Wells said, noting that Rt. 11, with its open fields and plentiful food supply, is heavily populated with deer. St. Hwy. 68 and winding secondary roads with limited vision are also places to watch out, he said.
October through December is white tail deer mating season, explained Stephen Litwhiler, citizen participation specialist for the state DEC.
The DEC estimates there are more than 60,000 deer-vehicle collisions throughout the state each year. Nearly two-thirds of the annual collisions occur during this three-month period, with most of the collisions occurring between 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The highest incidence of deer-vehicle collisions occurs in November.
“They’re crossing roads, and they’re most active before sunrise and at sunset,” Litwhiler said. “All they see are bright lights—they have no concept that your car is something going fast toward them.”
Then, once the vehicle’s lights are no longer shining on the deer, it may decide to make a dash.
“If you see one, slow down and anticipate there may be another crossing,” Litwhiler added.
Devices purporting to alert deer to a vehicle’s presence such as car whistles don’t work, he said. “There’s no answer other than being vigilant.”
James Farquhar, a DEC wildlife biologist, says there’s no substantial change in the deer population this year in the North Country. The DEC allows hunters to harvest up to four deer a year to help control the population.
Coincidentally, the fall hunting season may actually contribute to increased accidents, he said. When deer feel the hunting pressure, they tend to become more nocturnal—and they move away from the hunters.
Farquhar also cautions people to avoid feeding deer in their backyards. This keeps deer out of the wild and closer to roadways.
The DEC advises motorists to take the following precautions to prevent deer or moose vehicle collisions:
• Slow down when approaching deer or moose standing near the roadside, as they may bolt at the last minute when a car comes closer, often running into the road;
• Deer and moose often travel in groups, so if a deer or moose is spotted crossing the road, be alert for others that may follow;
• Use flashers or a headlight signal to warn other drivers when deer or moose are spotted near the road;
• Be alert and use caution when traveling through deer or moose crossing areas that are usually marked with road signs;
• Do not rely exclusively on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer;
• Make sure all vehicle occupants wear seatbelts, children are properly restrained in child safety seats and all motorcyclists are wearing helmets;
• Motorcyclists should be especially alert for deer. Motorcycle-deer crashes are increasing in New York;
• If a deer does run in front of the vehicle, it is advised to brake firmly but do not swerve. Swerving can cause a vehicle-vehicle collision or cause the vehicle to hit a fixed object such as a tree or pole.
If a deer or moose is hit and killed by a vehicle, the motorist should not remove the animal unless a permit is obtained from the investigating officer at the scene of the accident.