Anyone who drives in southern Indiana knows there are times when avoiding a collision with a deer is difficult. That appeared to be especially true during a 19-hour swing that began early Monday morning. During that time, the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department alone received reports of seven accidents involving vehicles and deer.
“We are seeing them all over the place,” said Daviess County Chief Deputy Gary Allison. “We seem to have the perfect storm going on to stir them up. The corn is out of the fields, the weather is changing and the deer are running.”
Among the accidents early Wednesday morning were two involving law enforcement. “The deputy marshal from Elnora hit a deer just north of Washington on State Road 57 in his private vehicle and one of our deputies was responding to that accident when he hit a deer on 57 north of Washington,” Allison said.
“We get a lot of vehicle-deer accidents in this area this time of year but that large of a number may be a bit of a fluke,” said Indiana Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Joe Hayward. “The number of accidents always go up this time of year. The rut normally peaks in mid-November and we are getting close to the peak of breeding season.”
With the crops out of the fields, deer have a lot less cover. Mating season tends to put the animals in motion and between bowhunters and gun hunters getting ready to start their season later this month, there is plenty to keep the deer running.
The impact of deer-vehicle accidents is large. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports there are 1 million deer-vehicle accidents every year doing an estimated $1billion in damage and causing 200 deaths.
In 2016, there were 14,201 such accidents in Indiana doing $119 million in damage. State Farm Insurance reports Indiana ranks 22nd in the number of car-deer accidents. The insurance company reports the odds are 1 in 136 you will be involved in a car-deer crash. The average claim in such an accident runs $4,000.
“Those kinds of accidents come in spurts,” said Fred Craney at Craney’s Body Shop. “We get them year round, but they will range from one a week up to four or five a week. When you get cool, damp weather like we have been having, the deer seem to move more and we get a lot more accidents. I’m surprised we didn’t have more last night.”
The sheriff’s department reported receiving one report of a crash on Tuesday night.
Officials say this is the season for car-deer crashes with 45 percent of all such accidents reported between October and the end of December. That means motorists have to be more vigilant over the remaining weeks of 2017.
“We have a lot of bad areas where the deer always seem to be running, “ said Allison. “One is north of Washington near the Cornettsville turn-off. Another is south of town in the areas around the Conservation Club, but this time of year, they can pop up about anywhere. They are most active from dusk to dawn. If you are driving you just have to be on the lookout, remain vigilant and slow down.”
Officials estimate Indiana has a deer population in excess of 500,000 animals. A Purdue University report estimates there are 30 million deer in the United States. They estimate that is a larger deer population than greeted the European settlers when they landed on North America.