MIAMI — The bucks are running wild, and we’re not talking about the ones who play in Oklahoma City that hail from Milwaukee.
Oklahoma is in the midst of deer season.
According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, 186 vehicle crashes reported in 2017 were deer-related (crashes in which a deer and vehicle actually collided or the presence of a deer was a contributing circumstance).
Oklahoma’s archery season runs until January and the gun season concludes Saturday, Dec. 2.
The holiday antlerless season is from Dec. 21-30.
“The rut time (peak of the whitetail deer breeding season) is usually the time when we see the increase in deer and vehicle collisions,” said Don Brown of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It’s because the bucks are crazy, they are chasing the does and not paying attention.”
Brown said the deer population in Oklahoma has rebounded from 2012, when a drought thinned out numbers.
“The population got nicked a little statewide when it was so dry,” he said. “We’ve had such good conditions here in the past few years that they have really rebounded and it’s a healthy population.”
The Quality Deer Management Association said an estimated 1 million deer-vehicle collisions occur annually across the United States, causing about 200 human fatalities and nearly $2 billion in property damage.
“In addition to injuries and loss of life, deer collisions often cause significant vehicle damage that can lead to large expenses for the vehicle owner if not properly insured,” said Mark Madeja, public and government affairs senior specialist for AAA Oklahoma. “Of the animal strikes reported by AAA Insurance policy holders in 2017, the average cost per claim was more than $4,500.”
Brown said because deer are a game animal, they can not be harvested without a license.
“When there is a collision and the deer is in pretty good shape, they often times have a list of people who are needy or who have said that they would like the deer meat,” Brown said. “Those deer can often go to help the needy and/or the driver. The driver can ask for it.”
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol will only respond to deer collisions if insurance paperwork is needed.
“If they want to keep the animal to salvage the meat, that’s fine,” warden Jason Adair said. “They can do that.”
He said he will get a salvage tag for those who do want to keep the meat.
“With that, I take the information and turn it into the wildlife division headquarters in Oklahoma City,” Adair said. “That way, we can try to keep an accurate count of the total deer harvest for that fiscal year.”
Be driving prepared:
*Be especially attentive in early morning and evening hours. Many animals, especially deer, are most active from 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. – prime-commuting times for many people.
* Pay attention to road signs. Yellow, diamond-shaped signs with an image of a deer indicate areas with high levels of deer activity.
* Keep your eyes moving back and forth. Continuously sweep your eyes across the road in front of you for signs of animals and movement. Animals may also be alongside the road, so make sure to look to the right and left, as well.
* Use high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic. You can spot animals sooner. Sometimes the light reflecting off their eyes will reveal their location.
* Slow down, and watch for other deer to appear. Deer rarely travel alone, so if you see one, there are likely to be more nearby.
* One long blast. A long blast on your horn may frighten animals away from your vehicle.
* Use brakes if an impact is imminent. Don’t swerve. Instead, stay in your lane. Swerving away from animals can confuse them so they don’t know which way to run. “If you are unfortunate enough to have a deer enter the highway in front of your car, it is best to hit the animal and not swerve to avoid it,” said Madeja. “More serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to miss deer and lose control of their vehicle, leaving the road or veering into oncoming traffic.”
*Always wear a seatbelt. The chances of getting injured when hitting an animal are much higher if you don’t have your seatbelt on.
Be crash prepared:
* Move your vehicle off the roadway to the shoulder, if possible, and call for law enforcement at *55. Make sure you tell the dispatcher if the animal or your vehicle is still in the road.
* Do not try to move the animal. An injured deer might panic and seriously injure you. Law enforcement or animal control officials can remove the animal from the road when they arrive.
* If possible, move the vehicle to a safe location, off the roadway, and wait for help to arrive. Turn on your hazard lights.
* If in a congested area, stay inside the car with seat belts on to avoid injuries from secondary crashes. Do not stand near your vehicle – especially between your car and another one. Watch for approaching traffic.
* Take pictures to document the crash once the scene is secured from traffic.
* Contact your insurance company as soon as possible.