Returning to the office? Remember that your fall commute coincides with the peak of deer activity.
Wearing masks and washing hands can help you avoid coronavirus, but those steps won’t curb another autumn danger: deer dashing unpredictably in our paths. Sure, the sight of Bambi and company grazing along the side of the road might remind us of Bergen County’s rural roots, but the animals can spell trouble—particularly for motorists—when they start moving. And as many of us resume office life and the school drop-off/pick-up routine, we’ll likely encounter more deer than we did over the summer.
While deer live among us all year long, they are most active in morning and evening hours (coincidentally our rush hour) and during mating season, which in New Jersey runs from October to mid-December, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish & Wildlife. Though we can’t eliminate the threat, you can decrease the chances that a deer-car collision will occur by remembering these basic tips to keep you and the animal safe.
Pay attention to signs. Those bright yellow animal warning signs are placed by state and local officials for a reason: They’re meant to warn drivers that the area is a known crossing site.
Stay alert. Because they travel in herds, deer are rarely alone. And during mating season, bucks actively pursue does, so if you notice one animal darting across the roadway, one or more is likely in the area and will probably follow.
Drive safe at night. Deer are most active during the evening hours, meaning they’ll be present more often as we lose daylight. Drivers should use their car’s high beams where appropriate (when there is no other car directly in front of them or in oncoming traffic).
Right of way. Think of deer as a pedestrian: When you see one in the road or about to cross, slow down and let it pass. If a collision seems inevitable, maintain your lane. The animal might counter maneuver if you swerve and run in the direction of your car. Injured and dead deer should be reported to the local police department.
Of course, you don’t have to been in a car to encounter a deer—they’re in public parks, hiking trails and our backyards. According to Tyco Animal Control, which provides animal control services to two dozen Bergen municipalities, deer choose to settle during the day where there’s ample cover: areas with plenty of bushes and pines. Remember, these are wild animals, so you should avoid them. “Do not attempt to approach or feed them,” Tyco advises on its website. So, put that social distancing knowledge to work and always keep a safe gap (about 75 feet or two school busses) between you and the deer. Want them off your lawn? Drive them away by making loud noises or yelling: We find a Jersey-tough “Git outta here!” always does the trick.