SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — State wildlife resources officials are urging drivers to watch out for deer on and near roads because this time of year is the peak activity season for the animals.
Deer breeding season in Newton County is generally Nov. 3 to 9 when the animals increase their movement compared to other times of the year, said officials with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
Charlie Killmaster, state deer biologist with the Wildlife Resources Division, said, “Motorists should be alert and pay close attention to roadsides as we are nearing the annual peak time of year for deer movement."
“Keep in mind that deer often travel in groups, so if a deer crosses the road ahead of you there is a good chance that another will follow," he said. "In many cases, that second deer is the one hit as the driver assumes the danger has passed and fails to slow down.”
Adult deer can weigh anywhere from 70 to 250 pounds, which means a collision with one could cause serious damage to a vehicle and injury to motorists, officials said.
The Wildlife Resources Division gave some tips and information to help avoid potential collisions:
• Deer are unpredictable. Always remember deer are wild and, therefore, can be unpredictable.
A deer calmly standing on the side of a road may bolt into or across the road rather than away from it when startled by a vehicle.
• One deer usually means more will follow. Slow down when a deer crosses the road in front of the vehicle because deer usually travel in groups and others may follow.
• Deer are most active at dawn and dusk and are typically seen along roads during the early morning and late evening – the same times most people are commuting to and from work.
• While deer-car collisions can occur at any time of year, the fall breeding season is a peak time for such events.
During the fall breeding season, deer movement increases and this often brings them in contact with roadways that cross their natural habitats, Division officials said.
Plants favored by deer for food often grow on road shoulders and they may be looking for the plants during extremely dry times of the year and following a long, hard winter.
• If it is too late to avoid a collision, drivers should slow down as much as possible to minimize damage.
"Resist the urge to swerve to avoid the deer, as this may cause further damage, sending drivers off the road or causing a collision with another vehicle," Division officials said.
State Farm Insurance Co. estimates it received more than 1.5 million animal collision insurance claims in the U.S. between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020.
The company on its website gave some additional suggestions if a collision occurs, including moving the vehicle to a safe place, calling the police, taking photos of the damage to document the incident, and double-checking the vehicle to see if it is still drivable.
"Look for leaking fluid, loose parts, tire damage, broken lights, a hood that won't latch and other safety hazards. If your vehicle seems unsafe in any way, call for a tow."
It also warns to stay away from the animal because "a frightened, wounded deer could use its powerful legs and sharp hooves to harm you."
An "excellent tool for motorists to determine local peaks in deer movement" is a Georgia deer rut map available at http://georgiawildlife.com/rut-map, Division officials said.
Deer mating season occurs between October and late December, depending on location. Male deer begin actively searching for mates which leads to an increase in movement and across roadways.
"Bucks move more and become less secretive, making them easier to hunt and more susceptible to being hit by motor vehicles," according to information from the Division.
Researchers at the University of Georgia and biologists with the Wildlife Resources Division found a strong correlation between peak deer-vehicle collision timeframes, deer conception dates and the hourly movement rates of deer tracked by GPS, the Division reported.
Based on that information, deer-vehicle collision data provided by the Georgia Department of Transportation was used to map the timing of peak deer movement in Georgia, it reported.
For more information on deer, visit https://georgiawildlife.com/deer-info.