This is the most romantic time of the year – for a deer.

As deer mating season heats up, many of the animals are darting out of bushes and running across roads and highways, especially at dawn and dusk.

Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said drivers need to be very careful because “when they’re mating, their mind is really on one thing and it’s not on your car.”

He said all motorists are being asked “to pay extra attention at this time of year to the possibility that a deer could suddenly dart into the roadway. You just have to really be alert.”

Hajna said that if a deer suddenly appears in front of your car, don’t try any dramatic evasion moves because the deer may counter-maneuver anyway.

“Collisions are more likely to become fatal when you swerve to avoid a deer and instead you hit oncoming traffic or a fixed structure such as a telephone poll or a light post," he said.

Hamilton Deer
A deer was removed from a pool in Hamilton Township this summer.

Hajna suggested as a general guideline all drivers should slow down whenever possible for the next several weeks.

“Especially if you see some deer in the roadway ahead, even if they’re off to the side of the road, you don’t know what that deer may do. It may suddenly dart across the road and into your line of travel.”

Hajna also said take extra precautions if you’re traveling after dark.

“If you’re going down a dark roadway, use your high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic,” he said. “High beams will be reflected by the eyes of the deer that are on or near roads and if you see one, slow down.”

Ocean Deer
A deer wandered into the ocean in Ortley Beach last October. (John Starace)

He noted deer typically move in family groups.

"They can cross the road in single file, so when one crosses there’s likely to be a few more following it," he said.

He strongly suggested you not tailgate because the person in front of you may need to suddenly slow down if a deer jumps in front of their car.

Hajna pointed out the DEP estimates there are about 100,000 deer living on state land, and there are probably tens of thousands more living on private property.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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