Migrating deer populations in Oregon are at an increased risk of being killed this time of year as the animals move from mountainous areas to lower elevations for the winter, state officials say.
As the estimated 16,000 deer make the fall migration to spots in central Oregon, they’re more likely to be hit by cars, The Bulletin reported on Thursday. Deer typically will travel between the same areas and take the same routes during their migrations. They are most active from sunset to sunrise.
According to auto insurer GEICO, peak deer season occurs during mid-October through mid-December.
The increase of vehicles on the road and the increase in development in central Oregon have created obstacles and hazards for deer making the journey, said Corey Heath, a biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The state Department of Transportation recorded 702 deer fatalities on state-maintained roads in three central Oregon counties in 2016. For the first half of this year, the fatalities are about 6 percent higher. Data collected by the department indicated highways in central Oregon see more cars striking deer than other areas of the state.
Peter Murphy, a regional spokesman for the department, said a fence that included two wildlife crossings was constructed in 2012 on U.S. Highway 97 in a section south of Bend. He said the project greatly reduced the number of deer strikes there, and the department has identified other areas for similar projects. The department doesn’t have plans to build the projects anytime soon, he said.
Murphy said drivers in this region need to be on the lookout for deer during this time of year, especially at night.
According to GEICO, a defense mechanism for a deer is standing still in an attempt to blend in with its surroundings. Another is scurrying at the last minute.
“Never try to steer out of the way,” Murphy said. “It’s counterintuitive, because your body wants to, but history and statistics show the driver suffers. Somebody’s going to get hurt, it’s you or the deer.”