Fall is deer season, slow down, look out

October through February is mating, or rutting, season for the black-tailed deer that inhabit our Santa Cruz Mountain range.  The peak of the season is November through December. That means deer are going to be more active, often running across roads on the hunt for a mate. Thus, this time of year can be especially dangerous to drive mountain roads. "In the last five years, we have handled approximately 38 cases involving a vehicle vs. a deer traffic collision, five cases where the driver crashed to avoid a deer, and approximately 10 cases outside our city limits assisting on crashes that involved a vehicle vs. a deer," said Lt. John Hohmann of the Scotts Valley Police Department. According to the CHP, deer rutting season or not, drivers need to take care when motoring through the county's rugged areas. "We get a substantial amount of calls reporting deer related traffic hazards and collisions year-round," said officer Brad Sadek, CHP spokesman. "We averaged about one call a day throughout the year. Some days we have multiple calls and some days, none." Several years ago, when I was heading back to Santa Cruz in the wee hours of the morning after a night on the town with friends in San Francisco, I encountered a deer in the curves just south of The Cats on Highway 17. I was driving my little 1996 Geo Metro when my headlights caught two glowing eyes in the distance. I released my foot from the accelerator and mouthed, "Don't move, don't move, don't move" to the deer as I drew closer. The huge, gorgeous buck was in my lane, the "fast lane," my chosen lane at night to better follow the Botts dots, as well as to avoid any debris or, ironically, wildlife that may be on the side of the road. A quick lane changed helped me to safely avoid the deer and continue home with only a quickened heartbeat. When traversing the Santa Cruz Mountains, Hohmann advises motorists to do their best to avoid a deer without driving off the road or causing a collision. "As always, drive at a safe speed based on the ever changing conditions of the roadway and be prepared for the unexpected," he added. From Sadek, "A rule of thumb we go by is, 'If it is smaller than your car, stand your ground.' If you see a deer in the roadway ahead and it is safe to do so, slow down. This keeps everyone --deer included -- safe, and gives the deer a chance to move. "Unfortunately, deer aren’t the smartest and tend to stare into the headlight rather than move out of the way," Sadek continued. "If this is the case, honking usually does the trick. Also, most auto parts stores actually sell 'Deer Whistles,' which can be put on your car and are quite effective. We have them on a number of our patrol cars. They are pretty effective." Here are some more factoids from Caltrans' Santa Cruz maintenance crews:
  • During deer mating season, male deer -- or bucks -- are seen and/or encountered more frequently between mid-October and the end of November.
  • Bucks are larger than female deer -- or does -- and are out more often in the mornings and evenings.
  • Santa Cruz area Caltrans maintenance crews receive approximately 4-10 calls daily reporting dead or injured deer on the road this time of year.
  • All highways, 1, 9 and 17, are equally affected.
  • When deer are encountered by Caltrans crews, the CHP s immediately notified to "dispatch" the deer, as resources to rehab injured deer are few locally, according to the CHP.
  • Caltrans advice when deer are encountered: "Leave them alone," injured or not. "These are wild animals, not Bambi. They can easily get freaked out and take off while injured, making it worse."
This entry was posted in CHP, deer, driver education, Driver safety, Highway 17, Mountain Driving, transportation, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply