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November 15, 2012

Deer pose threat to motorists

STILLWATER, Okla. — More deer get caught in the headlights during the fall than any other time of the year.

Head of Avian, Exotic and Zoo Medicine Service Cornelia Ketz-Riley said for approximately one or two months during the fall, deer are looking to breed. It is known as the rut or rutting season, named after the male’s habit of rubbing its antlers against trees.

During the season, males are aggressively seeking females to mate with. This urge to mate causes the deer to be less afraid of walking through yards, getting near people or crossing busy roads.

Deer darting across roads means more animals getting hit.

Payne County Sheriff’s Capt. Kevin Woodward said the fall yields nearly three times as many deer vs. car collisions. He said many of them go unreported as drivers often don’t file an accident report or need emergency assistance.

Ketz-Riley said deer begin seeking out females during the rut as soon as they are 2 years old. However, it is only when they get bigger and have more developed antlers that they are able to attract females.

It is best to leave the males alone and keep distance during the rut, Ketz-Riley said. An upright person looks similar to a sparring male on its hind legs, which may be threatening to the deer.

“I would consider any buck during the rut season to potentially be dangerous to people,” Ketz-Riley said.

As for avoiding deer while driving, Ketz-Riley said the saying “deer in the headlights” is true. Deer caught in bright headlights are blinded so they do not move as they are unsure what is in front of them. She said momentarily dimming one’s lights to allow the animal to reorient may be the most beneficial way to getting it to move along.

She also said deer may be traveling in groups, so when you slow down for one deer, expect more.

Biologist located around the state collaborated with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to produce a report on this year’s deer activity. In central Oklahoma, biologists observed what they called a “mixed bag.”

According to the report, there was higher than normal rutting activity early in the muzzleloader season during good weather but daytime activity decreased as temperatures rose.

The first full week of November saw increased sightings of bucks chasing does and more observations of road-killed deer. The road-killed deer are often a sign of rutting activity, the report stated.

Jeff Pennington, a central region wildlife supervisor, stated in the report that the overall deer activity has been higher than normal due to the nutritional stress caused by drought conditions.

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