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Why the fall is when most of N.J.'s deer get hit by cars, 50k struck yearly | With autumn comes the mating season for deer, also known as the rut.
For N.J. drivers, it’s a problem.
With a large portion of the state's estimated 50,000 deer-vehicle collisions taking place during the fall mating season, drivers have to be extra cautious, said Carole Stanko, a supervising wildlife biologist who heads the NJ Department of Environmental Protection's deer program.
"[Deer] throw caution to the wind," said Stanko. "During a rut all bets are off, with bucks chasing does all over the place."
There are more than 100,000 deer living in virtually every corner of the state, and the annual bow-hunting season for deer began Sunday. The state has some kind of deer hunting open for more than five months of the year.
In 2013, State Farm Insurance estimates there were 26,860 deer-vehicle collisions. However, unreported impacts and other factors mean the figure is likely double that, Stanko said.
Drivers are cautioned to take heed of several tips from the DEP’s biologists:
• When you see a deer, slow down and pay attention to sudden movement.
• If the deer doesn’t move, don’t go around it – wait for it to make the first move.
• Pay attention to “deer crossing” signs – and be prepared.
• Daybreak and dusk are likely to see the most activity of the deer - so commuters should be cautious going to and from work.
• If traveling after dark, use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic. The high beams reflect off the eyes of the deer, allowing you time to prepare.
• When seeing one deer, be wary; there are probably more in the area.
• If a collision with a deer appears inevitable, don’t swerve. Apply the brake, but stay in your lane of travel.
New Jersey has gradually made headway in reducing deer numbers. From a high of 200,000 deer in the Garden State in the mid-1990s, the last estimate places the total population at 105,535. The deer are everywhere – but they are particularly prevalent in areas that don’t allow hunting. So anyone behind the wheel should take care, Stanko said.
“This is a tricky time of year for drivers,” she said. “We’re taking out as many deer with cars as we do with guns and bows."
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