Neither Cheryl McAlpine nor her family were hurt when a deer sprang out in front of her sport utility vehicle and crashed into it several days ago, but McAlpine believes the shock may have taken a few years off her life.
“I’m 47,” she said, laughing. “But I feel 10 years older after that.”
It happened about 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 28 as McAlpine was driving on Oklahoma Highway 74 near Waterloo Road near Edmond, where she lives. The damage added up to $6,000.
Her story is not unlike those of hundreds of Oklahomans who are most likely to hit deer in October and November, when the animals are in their mating season.
“If you have a lot of doe in heat at the same time, bucks are going to be traveling to go look for them and mate with them,” said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
In addition, the changing season and daylight saving time has resulted in more people driving during the dusk and dawn hours, when visibility is slight and deer are on the move, experts say.
Nationally, about 1.5 million deer-vehicle crashes occur annually, resulting in about $1.1 billion in damage, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Oklahoma total is hard to pin down, but data from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office indicates that about 1,650 animal-related accidents are reported to law enforcement officials each year.
In 2005, about 450 animal-related crashes occurred during October and November. The figures don’t specify how many of those crashes were caused by deer.
The actual number of deer-involved accidents is likely much higher, since many collisions are never reported to law enforcement.
State Farm insures only about 25 percent of Oklahoma motorists. Over a one-year period ending June 30, though, Oklahoma’s State Farm claimants were involved in 1,716 deer-related collisions.
Allstate customers have reported more than 700 animal-related accidents in Oklahoma this year at a cost of more than $1 million.
In calendar year 2005, Farm Bureau policy holders filed 1,164 claims associated with deer collisions, said spokesman Sam Knipp. The insurer paid off about $3 million.
So far this year there have been 765 claims at a cost of $1.9 million, Knipp said.
It’s not as bad in Oklahoma as it is in other states.
Oklahoma is home to about 500,000 deer, but deer populations in Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin exceed 1 million, Shaw noted.
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