The Washington Post – Behold the deer, the deadliest beast in North America.
Deer are responsible for the deaths of about 440 of the estimated 458 Americans killed in physical confrontations with wildlife in an average year, according to Utah State University biologist Mike Conover, employing some educated guesswork in the latest edition of “Human-Wildlife Interactions.”
Those deer-inflicted fatalities are not, so far as we know, caused by deer-on-human predation. They’re the unfortunate result of more than 2 million people a year plowing into deer with their sedans and SUVs, usually on a two-lane road, often at high speeds.
You might wonder: Where and when am I most likely to hit a deer? And how can I avoid it?
To shed light on this herbivorous hazard, we turned, of course, to data. Specifically, we analyzed more than 1 million animal-vehicle collisions compiled by Calumn Cunningham, Laura Prugh and their colleagues at the University of Washington for a recent paper published in Current Biology.
They estimate deer were involved in more than 90 percent of the collisions, which occurred in 23 states between 1994 and 2021.
With a few exceptions, the data show deer are at their most dangerous in November. Indeed, the deer threat peaks just before Thanksgiving – typically Nov. 7 through 14 – when you’re about three times more likely to hit a deer than at any other time of year.
Experienced deer hunters can probably guess why driving in November can turn into Russian roulette on certain highways and byways:
In much of the country, that’s rutting season. And during the rut, deer focus on procreation, not self-preservation. Marianne Gauldin of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division compares rutting bucks to teenage boys.
“They are hyper-focused on the opportunity to breed, and they therefore lose some of their wits,” Gauldin said.
“They are full-tilt looking for does, chasing does and running after does for the opportunity to breed. And they are doing this with tunnel vision . . . literally running across the road” …