A dangerous time for deer, drivers in NJ
With late October comes the beginning of another "deer rutting" season in New Jersey. For drivers, it could mean big trouble as they commute to and from work.
The deer population has started its mating season and that means they may not be too careful when it comes to dashing out onto busy roadways, according to Larry Hajna of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
"Part of nature's rhythms have these deer being most active during the early morning and in the evening, during dawn and dusk," he said.
Hajna said the rut is just part of their natural biological cycle, and it coincides with the coming winter. The does will have their fawns in the spring.
Hajna said during this time of year, it's not uncommon for deer to suddenly dart out into the road. And it doesn't matter whether it's a country road or a major interstate.
"Every year we put out the message: Please be alert to deer, especially at this time of year, because as many as half of the thousands of deer/vehicle crashes that occur in New Jersey occur at this time of year," he said.
There were more almost 27,000 deer vs. vehicle collisions in New Jersey in 2013, according to State Farm Insurance.
Hajna says motorists need to focus extra attention on driving, stay away from their cell phones and focus not only on the road, but also the shoulders and adjacent woods. A fully-grown male deer can easily exceed 150 pounds. It is a dangerous situation. And the deer risk is even more complicated, according to Hajna.
"It is at the time of day, dusk and dawn, when sun glare can be really bad and low light conditions can persist and it can be really, really difficult," he said.
Hajna says if a crash appears inevitable, hitting the deer is still better than plowing into another vehicle head-on, or striking something on the side of the road, like a barrier, a tree or a light pole.
"At least the deer will give. You will sustain damage to your car. But in most cases it will not be as serious as a collision with another vehicle or an obstacle," he said.
If you see one deer wandering close to the road, you're likely to see more, Hajna said. They tend to cross the road in single file and in groups. Your attention may be focused on the deer that is just crossing the road, but there could be more behind it, so always exercise caution, he added.
The rutting season continues until the end of the year.
Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.