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Deer's change of habit puts motorists at risk

November 09, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

As a Department of Natural Resources police officer for 12 years, Russell Boback has seen the result of many collisions between deer and vehicles.

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But he'd never seen a buck as large as the 175-pounder that ran in front of his wife's Chevrolet Blazer Sunday.

While Boback was at church, Jamie Boback hit both the buck and a doe he was chasing on Md. 64. Both animals died, but no humans were hurt.

"It's just that time of year when a young buck's heart turns to love," said Russell Boback, who lives near Smithsburg.


The mating season, also known as the "rut," causes deer to move around more. Their hunt for food also might cause their patterns to shift, said Rich Rogers, a biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

That makes it more likely they will cross paths with motorists, according to officials.

Wildlife officials said there were at least 3,187 deer-auto collisions in the Tri-State area last year.

That is a conservative estimate because many accidents go unreported, officials said.

Personnel at Tri-State area body shops say they see a spike in their workload this time every year.

Mary Lou Mace of Mace Auto Body said she had seen two deer playing in her yard earlier that evening.

"They're just bold," she said.

Twenty-eight deer accidents in the last 30 days have flung the business into its busy season, Mace said.

The shop usually has a backlog of work until mid-December and calculations indicate that 85 percent of the accidents that bring vehicles to the shop were caused by deer.

"You wouldn't believe it," she said.

There have been more off-season deer accidents this year and Mace said she suspects it's because more deer survived the mild winter.

Some shops are still waiting for the seasonal rush.

Wanda Farrow, secretary at Dave Shockey Auto Body in Waynesboro, Pa., said she's expecting to see business pick up soon.

"They're starting to move now," said Farrow, a hunter who has been doing some pre-season deer spotlighting.

A deer collision can happen anywhere, from urban areas such as Hagerstown's Dual Highway to rural mountain roads, highway maintenance workers said.

In Franklin County, Pa., about half of the accidents involving deer occur on Pa. 75, a two-lane rural road between two mountains, said Barry Newman, roadway program technician for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

But there has been an increase in accidents involving deer on Interstate 81 between Greencastle, Pa., and Marion, Pa., he said.

Dale Martin, 27, said he sees deer all the time as he drives to and from his home in Maugansville.

On Monday night, he hit two of them with his Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck.

An oncoming car had flashed its lights at him, but three or four deer were in front of him before he realized what the warning was about.

One hit the front of his truck and the other hit the side. Both were killed.

Betty Banzhoff, 62, said she won't be playing bingo at Western Maryland Sportsman's Club for awhile.

On Oct. 29, the last time she went to the remote club off Dam No. 4 Road, a deer jumped out and the resulting impact caused $3,000 damage to her 1997 Chrysler.

"It just happened so fast. It's a frightening thing. I said how can they be so dumb when they're so beautiful," she said.

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