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Deer-dodging season begins

October 23, 1997

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

No one has to tell Steve Davis what this time of year means.

Deer. And plenty of them.

As resident engineer for the Maryland State Highway Administration's Hagerstown complex, Davis knows the problem caused each fall when deer begin wandering into traffic in greater numbers.

He got a firsthand look last year when he struck a deer while driving.

The deer was apparently unhurt, but damage to Davis' car was $1,900, he said.

"I didn't even hit the deer that hard," he said.

Area wildlife officials are warning motorists to be particularly careful over the next few months as the chances of deer darting in front of cars and trucks increase.

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"Deer do not stop and look both ways when they cross a highway, and the number of deer/vehicle collisions increases at this time of year," said John R. Griffin, secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The increase is primarily related to the fact that deer are now in their breeding season, said Doug Hotton, deer project leader for the Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife and Heritage Division.

"It causes the males to start moving around more, looking for females," Hotton said.

Meanwhile, many of the younger deer born earlier this year are starting to establish their independence by staking out their own territory, said Gary Strawn, wildlife biologist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

"They're getting bolder, wandering on their own," Strawn said.

Hotton said the deer movement will peak early next month, but likely will remain a problem for motorists through December.

Last year 1,775 deer were reported killed by vehicles on Tri-State area roads, but wildlife officials believe the actual number is higher because many deer accidents go unreported.

Although many drivers use whistles affixed to their cars in an attempt to deter deer from running into traffic, Hotton said he has yet to see scientific proof that the devices work.

"I would never put one on my car," he said.

Drivers should simply be more aware this time of year of the chance of a deer running onto the roadway, Hotton said. And if faced with a deer in their path, the most important thing a driver should not do is swerve to avoid hitting the animal, he said.

Swerving might cause a driver to miss hitting the deer, but doing so often results in the driver striking another vehicle or tree, Hotton said.

"That's when people get seriously injured, when they swerve to avoid a deer," Hotton said.

Over the past five years, the number of deer struck by vehicles in Maryland has increased 62 percent, as both the deer and human populations have grown, according to state officials. Property damage has been estimated at $6 million each year statewide.

Davis said his crews spend much of their time each fall removing deer carcasses from state highways.

"It's just another thorn," he said.

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