- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2005

On Sunday, during a predawn drive to The Washington Times on New York Avenue NE, I anxiously passed 12 deer widely scattered by the side of the road, not standing together in one herd. I say anxiously because no human on Earth can predict what a deer will do from one moment to the next. I believe not even the deer know because their movements often are so sudden they seem to surprise even companion deer nearby.

What makes all this even worse are certain dunderhead motorists who insist on driving only inches away from the bumper of the person in front of them, blissfully ignorant about the consequences should a sudden slam on the brakes be required.

The deer I passed so apprehensively weren’t seen just in the rural environs of my home. No, several were spotted on busy Indian Head Highway, not far from the Beltway. All this makes me nervous because a few years ago, during one October-November period, I struck three deer.

I killed two of them outright and required front end work on my pickup truck. Luckily, the third deer ran into the side of my pickup — while I was sitting still on a country lane. The deer was being chased by a couple of delinquent beagles, and the whitetail must have glanced back as it ran and — “Smack!” — ran into my truck. It fell but arose quickly and tore loose through a nearby marsh. The dogs never caught up with it in the treacherous swamp.

With that in mind, let us pass along helpful advice from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, which reminds us autumn is breeding season for deer. Consequently, deer are more active now than at any other time of the year. One-half to two-thirds of all deer/vehicle collisions occur in October, November and December, the VDGIF says.

Virginia wildlife biologists estimate the population of whitetailed deer in the state to be approximately 900,000. The number has been stabilized at between 800,000 and 1million for almost 10 years. Each year hunters in Virginia shoot more than 200,000 deer. Without hunting, the numbers could double within five years.

Virginia — I’m certain Maryland joins its neighbor in this — provides sensible advice to keep from striking a deer with a vehicle:

(1) When driving, particularly at dusk and dawn, slow down and be attentive. If you see one deer, there often will be others. If one deer crosses the road as you approach, others may follow.

(2) Deer habitually travel the same areas, so deer crossing signs have been installed by transportation departments. Use caution when you see these signs. However, don’t bet the rent they will cross only where signs have been erected.

(3) Drivers should apply brakes and even stop if necessary to avoid hitting a deer, but they should never swerve out of a traffic lane to miss one. A collision with another vehicle, tree or other object likely will be more serious than hitting a deer.

(4) Any person involved in a collision with a deer or bear while driving a motor vehicle, thereby killing the animal, immediately should report the accident to a game warden or the police where the accident occurred.

(5) Drivers who collide with a deer or bear and kill it can keep it for their own use provided they report the accident to a law enforcement officer where the accident occurred and the officer views the animal and gives the person a possession certificate.

Here’s hoping you never hit one of those split-hooved critters. If it happens, it’s certain to ruin your day and probably the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, my friends and I will do all we can to reduce the deer population during the various hunting seasons, thus keeping deer vs. bumper meetings to a minimum. Don’t thank us. We’re glad to help.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]washingtontimes.com

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