The annual white-tailed deer mating season, or rut, is underway through mid-December and motorists are cautioned to drive vigilantly both out in the community and onboard NAS Patuxent River.
“Most deer/vehicle strikes occur about an hour before and after sunrise or sunset and, unfortunately in fall and winter, those times of day happen to coincide with most people coming on and going off base,” said Jim Swift, Pax River natural resources specialist.
Swift explained there’s increased deer activity during rutting season because, as the deer search for mates, they move more frequently during the day and travel further distances than during other times of year.
“It picks up around the third week of October, but peak of the rut is the first full week of November; that’s when you’ll see the highest amount of activity,” he said.
Swift noted the most important thing drivers can do to reduce their chances of an accident with deer is to drive the speed limit and watch for them where roads pass through wooded or rural areas; and also remember deer usually travel in groups. If one crosses the road ahead of you, slow down and be cautious, because there could be additional deer out of sight that are likely to follow.
“At night, using high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic can help because high beams illuminate a wider area,” Swift said. “You might see the deer’s eyes reflecting on the side of the road and notice them sooner than normally.”
Pax River hotspots
Onboard Pax River, Swift mentioned the locations that see the most number of deer strikes include Cedar Point Road from Gate 2 down to the theatre, specifically near the chapel and the information marquee; Tate Road, near the skeet range at the end of the runway lights; and also the Gate 1 inbound and outbound lanes near Cuddihy Road. The highest number of deer/auto strikes reported at Pax River was 23 and occurred in the late 1980s.
“Over the last couple of years, that number has dropped into the single digits per year,” Swift added. “The decrease is for different reasons, but mostly because Pax’s deer population numbers are lower.”
Cyclists at Pax River are also asked to be vigilant during rutting season as there have been a few close calls with deer darting out of the woods into the roadside near them.
An important tip to remember is to never veer for deer. Making a sudden sharp turn is dangerous as it can place a driver in the path of oncoming traffic or cause the vehicle to strike a fixed object such as a tree or utility pole. Instead, brake firmly, hold on to the steering wheel and stay in your lane as you bring the vehicle to a controlled stop; and be sure to always wear a seatbelt, which can help decrease your chance of being injured if you do strike a deer.