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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Fall brings deer onto highways

  • The advent of fall brings cooler temperatures and an increase in deer movement.
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  • The advent of fall brings cooler temperatures and an increase in deer movement.
    Harvest, hunting and the rut have increased deer activity for both bucks and does.
    With deer on the prowl, drivers need to be extra vigilant especially during the high times of deer movement at dawn and dusk, said Pratt County Sheriff Vernon Chinn.
    Hunters walk fields and agitate deer into movement. Harvest flushes deer out of fields and changes their feeding areas. The rut has bucks searching for mates.
    Bucks at this time of year are pretty dumb. Their senses are down and it's not unusual to see them standing in the middle of the road.
    The combination of all this activity has deer stirred up and on the move from sunset through the night to sunrise, Chinn said.
    With all this movement, deer are crossing roadways next to shelterbelts, tree rows, drainage ditches, rivers and fields.
    Deer tend to move in herds so if a driver sees one deer they can count on others to come across the road as well, Chinn said.
    "If you see one deer you will see another. They seldom travel alone," Chinn said.
    While most deer traffic happens from dusk to dawn, it is not unusual for the sheriff's office to work a deer accident in the middle of the afternoon.
    Drivers have a natural tendency to swerve to avoid deer. While that is a common instinct it usually ends up causing more damage to the vehicle than if the driver had just hit the deer.
    Many times the sudden swerve movement causes the driver to lose control of the vehicle and roll or crash into a tree.
    On the average the sheriff's office works from 70 to 80 accidents a year with the bulk in the spring and fall.
    Drivers need to fight the tendency to swerve to avoid deer. Most accidents cause minor damage to the vehicle but when the driver loses control it can result in substantial damage to the vehicle and injury to the driver. In most cases, hitting the deer results in less damage then if the driver tries to swerve while moving at 65 mph.
    Deer vehicle fatalities are rare but they do occur. Motorcycle driver Roger House was killed when he collided with a deer during an afternoon toy ride near Cairo.
    Another fatality occurred several years ago around sunset when a deer crashed through the windshield of an SUV and killed the driver on U.S. 54 about five miles east of Pratt.
    To help avoid deer accidents drivers can avoid driving during dusk and dawn. However, most drivers have to drive during those times so they need to take precautions to reduce the likelihood of having an accident.
    Page 2 of 2 - Drivers need to keep their eyes moving and scanning the ditches as they drive. If they do see deer, they need to slow down and assume that the animal will cross the road, Chinn said.
    Since deer don't travel alone, if a driver sees one deer they should keep looking for other deer. If deer eye shine is visible, drivers need to slow down.
    In spite of all the precautions, deer accidents will happen. If a driver is out on a regular basis at dusk or dawn it is almost assured the driver will have some kind of encounter with a deer.
    If an accident does happen, if possible pull the vehicle as far off the travel portion of the road as possible and put on the emergency flashers.
    Don't get out of the vehicle to investigate because it could be dangerous to the driver if they are on the road looking at the wreck damage and not looking for oncoming traffic.
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