With the calendar now turned to the peak season for deer-vehicle collisions in most parts of the United States – and Missouri considered a higher-risk state – officials remind drivers to be extra vigilant for deer while driving, especially at dawn and dusk.
The last three months are the mating season for deer, and while November has the most deer-vehicle collisions, October is the next highest, followed by December. Mating season generally means more activity, and not just in rural areas.
For more than a dozen years, State Farm Insurance has compiled deer collision claims for every state. The 2018-19 report (July 1 through June 30) also takes into account incidents with moose, elk and caribou, though only elk will be found in Missouri and rarely at that.
Missouri ranked 15th among state for frequency – one in every 79 drivers claiming such a collision.
In 2017-18, Missouri ranked 16th with a 1:110 ratio, and the year before it was 17th with a 1:112.
West Virginia has been the most frequent state for deer collisions for 13 years, with its latest ratio at 1:38.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol says drivers in the state experienced 4,090 deer-vehicle crashes last year – a bit less than one every two hours. Those crashes included six fatalities and 415 people injured.
Eric Olson, superintendent of the Highway Patrol, notes that deer often travel in groups, so stay alert beyond the first deer you see. In areas with streams or a wooded corridor surrounded by farmland, deer can be especially likely to cross roads. Hunting and crop harvesting can also lead to deer being in places they might not normally be.
Olson and others also remind drivers that trying to avoid hitting a deer can sometimes be worse for you than hitting it. Many times, depending on traffic flow, slowing down is the best option. Distracted driving, of course, heightens the risk of hitting a deer.
“Animals may appear suddenly, and swerving to avoid them can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles, resulting in serious injury or death,” Natalie Roark, state maintenance director for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said in a release.
The Highway Patrol says to call 911 or *55 on a cell phone to report a deer strike. If the deer died in the road, Roark said don't jeopardize personal safety to remove the animal in a high-traffic area. Instead, call MoDOT at 1-888-275-6636. Crews will pick up dead deer that pose a safety hazard, meaning the carcass is in the driving or passing lane, or partially in either lane or on the shoulder.
If a deer is on the shoulder, MoDOT will remove it during normal working hours. MoDOT will not pick up dead deer that are off of the roadway unless they impede mail delivery or are located in a neighborhood, especially at or near a bus stop.
Also, Missouri law allows motorists who have hit and killed a deer with their vehicle to claim the deer carcass if they receive written authorization by a Missouri Department of Conservation agent to possess the deer.