November Has Most Vehicle-deer Collisions in Iowa

November 8, 2011

Iowa drivers should be extra careful in November, according to the state Department of Natural Resources, because the month has the highest rate of collisions between vehicles and deer.

The deer road kill count in Iowa in 2010 was about 10,000. Of that, 23 percent of the dead deer along rural highways and interstates were counted in November, said Joe Wilkinson, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources. The rest were counted over the other 11 months.

Wilkinson told the Iowa City Press-Citizen there are three primary reasons why November has so many collisions. The first is biological.

“Deer are building up to the peak of their rut,” he said.

Another reason is the time of year. The harvest is almost done and deer have lost a primary hiding spot in corn fields. Wilkinson said daylight hours also are growing shorter, meaning dawn and dusk – when deer are most active – closely coincide when people are heading to and from work.

“Deer are more active in those low-light periods,” Wilkinson said. “Now, people are more active in those periods, too.”

Wilkinson said there has been a “significant” drop in vehicle-deer collisions in the last several years. In 2004, the deer road kill count in Iowa was 15,361. Last year, it was 10,153.

It appears the decrease is a result of the declining deer population in Iowa. The department tracks deer population based on the deer harvest. In 2004, it was more than 194,000. The deer harvest peaked in 2005, at more than 211,000, but has since decreased steadily to about 127,000 in 2010.

Wilkinson said the drop in Iowa’s deer population was the result of a directive from the state Legislature to lower the deer population in the state. He said that was promoted by issuing more antlerless deer tags and thinning out the doe population.

He said deer hunters shouldn’t worry about the deer population getting too small.

“There are still deer to hunt and deer to watch,” he said. “But, there are fewer deer on the roads.”

Bill Wagenknecht, owner of Vic’s Auto Body Repair in Iowa City, said if a collision with a deer can’t be avoided, the best response is to “drive through it.”

“If you have to hit it, just hit it,” he said. “Anything to try to not to hit it makes it worse. Definitely, don’t go off the road.”

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