This is the time of year that Alan McGuckin adds time to his morning commute into Tulsa from the Skiatook area because the deer soon will be visible near the roads.
He’s not just being safe — he’s taking photographs from his car — and he advises others to take it easy, too.
“There is a discernible difference between now, right now, and other times of the year,” he said. “I saw my first semi-mature buck two nights ago and when I see bucks in visible daylight that’s the kickoff to a good six to eight weeks of that activity and I tell my friends, ‘be careful, deer are on the move.’ ”
The mating season for white-tailed deer is in its beginning stages in Oklahoma and it’s time for motorists to watch out, especially in the early morning and late evening hours. But, come mid-November, the threat is present even at midday as activity increases.
“As the days become shorter, some physiological changes kick in,” said Dallas Barber, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “There are some hormonal changes that are going on. Some does will start going into heat a little bit and the bucks are starting to ramp up right now.”
Deer that have been active mostly at night are seen more in the hours of civil twilight and into daylight hours as their social structure changes, bucks separate off and they eventually start chasing does.
“That increased travel makes them more susceptible to being hit,” Barber said.
Mating becomes the priority for the deer and it makes them do things humans might view as dumb, such as running out in front of traffic. But it’s only natural, he said.
“It’s not something unique to deer. It’s a primal instinct across the animal kingdom,” he said.
With a statewide deer population estimated at 750,000, the roughly 21,000 reported collisions with wildlife reported to insurance companies last season are not a big concern for wildlife managers anymore, although they do take note of it, Barber said.
“It’s not something that impacts the population overall,” he said.
With 21,000 claims, Oklahoma ranks 30th in the country for number of collisions, he said.
Carlos Gomez, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation game warden for Tulsa County, said the problem truly is year-round but collisions definitely increase in late September and continue into December.
“You start getting the calls,” he said. “We had a deer in Jenks just last night we had to shoot that was hit near the old Southerlands on Main Street.”
“I’ve never plotted it so it’s my anecdotal observations, but starting around the first of October and late September the numbers start going up and by late October early November there is a significant increase and it’s shooting up. I believe you could plot the activity and draw a bell curve on all of that.”
AAA Oklahoma reports collisions are not only a safety issue but a potentially costly event for motorists.
Public and government affairs manager Leslie Gamble noted that of the animal strikes reported by AAA policy holders in 2018 the average cost per claim was more than $4,700.
AAA also reported the collisions are a potentially life-threatening safety concern. According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, 186 vehicle crashes reported in 2017 were deer-related, meaning the vehicle actually collided with a deer or the presence of a deer was a contributing factor.
With costs so high related to deer collisions, AAA advises motorists purchase comprehensive insurance or check with their agent to make sure they have it.
Collision coverage pays for damage to your car from a collision only with an object such as a telephone pole or guardrail or as a result of flipping over but a comprehensive plan is needed for an animal strike.
“Just slow down this time of year,” Gomez said. “Let off the gas and push on the brake. If you do come across a deer don’t try to swerve. You’re better off to try to stop and just hit the deer. The other important thing to remember is if you see one deer look for more. When one crosses the road there is a good chance there is another one, or more, following it.”