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Watch Out on the Roads: Deer Are on the Prowl

It’s that time of the year.

Deer are answering mother nature’s siren call and venturing out in search of a mate, which can have disastrous results for both the deer and local drivers.

Since Tuesday, Arlington County police have received at least three calls for injured deer on the side of the road, at least one of which was struck by a vehicle.

Collisions between deer and cars in Arlington are actually somewhat rare — “since January 1, 2018, four collisions reports have been taken for incidents causally-attributed to deer,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow — but this time of the fall is when the risk is highest.

Arlington County naturalist Alonso Abugattas said it comes down to normally skittish deer becoming uninhibited as their drive to perpetuate the species heightens.

“We are at the start of the rut for deer. This means bucks are chasing does all over the place in order to mate,” Abugattas said. “As this is the one thing they have in their minds, they often ignore cars and this is when the most car deer collisions happen.”

Jennifer Toussaint, the Chief of Animal Control for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, said in an email that there’s a higher risk of deer-related crashes along roads that abut wooded areas.

“Rutting season for deer is the period of time in the year when they mate. During this time their activity and movement increases and as a result, we see an increase in roadway crossings for deer,” Toussaint wrote. “We see most of the small number of motor vehicle deer collisions that occur yearly during this time.”

“Here in Arlington County those incidents are most likely to occur on the highways and roadways that abut or run alongside our large or conjoining green spaces; such as Arlington Boulevard near Lubber Run, Military Road, GW Parkway, and Spout Run Parkway,” she continued. “It’s important for drivers to be extra vigilant from the second week of October through the first week of December — when their movement activity is at its peak.”

Toussaint offered the following safety tips for drivers.

Ways to Increase Safety During This Time:

  • Be vigilant, especially at dawn and dusk when deer activity is at its highest. Watch from side to side as you drive, especially in areas of low visibility or where shrubs or grasses are near the road.
  • Watch for group behavior. Deer often travel in groups. If one deer crosses the road, slow down and watch for more to follow. Females travel together in winter, and fawns follow their mothers in spring and summer. Male deer travel alone during rutting season.
  • Use your high beams at night when possible and turn down interior lights and put away distractions (such as cell phones) to see farther ahead. Slow down and watch for the eye-shine of deer near road edges.
  • Use your high beams at night when possible and turn down interior lights and put away distractions (such as cell phones) to see farther ahead. Slow down and watch for the eye-shine of deer near road edges.

She also noted that instances of injured deer have been decreasing, particularly during the pandemic, despite the sudden spike this week.

“Overall deer intake to animal control actually went down an additional 38% in 2020,” Toussaint wrote. “To date this year in 2021, we are down an additional 18% on intake to the even low intake of last year. Arlington County Animal Control works with Arlington County’s DES team to ensure that if there are any collisions in certain areas that warning signs are put up for motor vehicle drivers. Our overall calls regarding deer concerns has also steadily decreased yearly over the past 4 years as well.”

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