As daylight shrinks, US heads into peak deer collision season

The Insurance Information Institute reports that there were nearly 2 million animal collision insurance claims in the U.S. between July 2019 and June 2020.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Numerous agencies are warning motorists to be on the lookout for deer as the animal's primetime mating season gets underway.

State Farm estimates that U.S. drivers have about 1 in 116 chance of colliding with an animal, and experts say deer strikes make up a large percentage of the crashes from late October through November.

"What's happening is the onset of the breeding season," said Clint McCoy, a deer biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said deer get into chases during the mating process, leading to their unpredictable movements and ventures onto roadways.

Since 2016, the Ohio State Highway Patrol reported more than 100,000 deer-related crashes on Buckeye State roadways, and nearly half of those happened during the late fall and early winter.

Experts say the decrease in the amount of daylight North America sees as it heads towards the winter solstice helps drive when the animal's mating season occurs.

"The animals have a special gland that perceives the amount of light in a given day. And as the amount of light decreases, as we get into fall, the deer begin secreting hormones. The hormones eventually tell them it's time to breed," McCoy said.

Daylight across the Northern Hemisphere will continue to decrease through what's known as the winter solstice, which will occur on December 21.

McCoy said areas closer to the equator that see less fluctuation in daylight don't see swings in deer sightings because mating season occurs in cycles year-round.

AAA suggested the following tips to reduce the chances of an animal strike:

  • Scan the road ahead
  • Use beam headlights if there is no oncoming traffic
  • Be extra cautious at dawn and dusk
  • If a collision is unavoidable, apply the brakes firmly and remain in your lane