View Full Version : Deer-Car Collisions

11-04-2006, 08:49 PM
What you need to know about deer-car collisions

By Ken Raymond and Joe Wertz
Staff Writers

All Cheryl McAlpine saw was a head and antlers.

"It leaped out in front of me. ... I had no idea where it was coming from," said McAlpine, who lives west of Edmond.

On Oct. 28, McAlpine was driving home from a church carnival on State Highway 74 near Waterloo Road. Her cousin and four nieces were passengers in her sport utility vehicle.

About 9:30 p.m., the deer leaped out in front of her -- a flash of motion, then a crash. McAlpine and her family were unharmed, but the grill, radiator and front end of the SUV had $6,000 worth of damage.

She doesn't know what happened to the deer.

"I'm 47," McAlpine said, laughing. "But I feel 10 years older after that."

This time every year, hundreds of Oklahomans suffer similar shocks. Motorists 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.

Micah Holmes, department spokesman, agreed.

"They are out chasing does, and they're a lot more active," Holmes said.

"They're more likely to have their minds on other things than looking out for cars."

Human behavior contributes to the danger, too. With the changing season and daylight saving time, more people drive during the dusk and dawn hours, when visibility is slight and deer are on the move.

"That probably influences the total, as well," Shaw said.

Nationally, about 1.5 million deer-vehicle crashes occur each year, resulting in about $1.1 billion in damage, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But the Oklahoma total is hard to pin down.

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, easily the highest two-month total of the year.

Similar numbers were reported in 2003 and 2004. 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, for example, 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, Knipp said, there have been 765 claims at a cost of $1.9 million.

"It's a serious problem for us," Knipp said. "And we're getting into our busiest time of the year for these things."

Good thing you're not in Pennsylvania
The average Oklahoma buck weighs about 115 pounds, Shaw said. A doe weighs slightly less, and extremes range from 80 to 200 pounds. The state is home to about 500,000 deer.

"It's a healthy number," Shaw said, "but when you compare it to states like Texas and Michigan and Wisconsin, it's pretty small."

Deer populations in each of those states exceed 1 million, he said.
Pennsylvania has the highest number of State Farm claimants who hit deer.

Over a one-year period, that state's policy holders reported 18,846 deer-vehicle accidents. Michigan was second with 13,108 accidents and Illinois third with 12,003.

Oklahoma ranked 38th.

Even here, though, accidents will happen.
"More often than not, they don't even result in injury," Shaw said. "But you will get property damage."

11-05-2006, 02:00 PM
I had my own little Gross Encounter with a doe near Coalgate this summer. It was a draw: both deer and car died.