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Be aware motorists, deer are on the move

It’s autumn, which means deer are on the move.

Does are getting close to mating. Bucks have scraped the velvet off their antlers and are setting up territory. Fawns born this year have grown enough to show some independence, straying from mom.

It adds up to deer appearing more alongside roads — or crossing roads. Or standing in roads.

Drivers need to pay attention, especially as dusk comes earlier and dawn comes later each day, putting deer and job commuters out at the same times.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and its Division of State Patrol are reminding motorists to be especially alert for the potential of deer darting across roadways over the next several weeks. Deer/vehicle crashes typically peak during the October and November “rutting” period, when bucks pursue potential mates.

The odds drivers will hit a deer in Wisconsin are 1 in 72, fourth-highest in the nation, according to an annual State Farm Insurance deer-vehicle collision study.

Michigan ranks eighth at odds of 1 in 80. Both states are well above the national odds of 1 in 167.

Tips to help drivers avoid a damaging and perhaps dangerous encounter with a deer:

— Slow down, particularly at dusk and dawn;

— If one deer appears, watch for more; a long blast of the horn may frighten them away;

— Pay attention to deer crossing signs and realize even urban areas may have deer to watch for;

— Always buckle up, every trip, every time;

— Use high beams to see farther, except when there is oncoming traffic;

— Remain focused on the road and scan for any hazards;

— Avoid distractions — using devices or eating might mean missing an animal;

— Do not rely on products such as deer whistles, as they are not proven effective;

— If riding a motorcycle, always wear protective gear.

If a collision with a deer is unavoidable, WisDOT recommends:

— Brake firmly and stay in your lane;

— Avoid sudden swerving, which can result in a more serious crash;

— The one exception to the “don’t swerve” recommendation — motorcycle drivers should slow down, brake firmly and swerve if necessary to avoid hitting the deer. Motorcyclists should still try to stay within their driving lane to avoid hitting other vehicles or objects.

If the deer is hit:

— Get the vehicle safely off the road if possible. Turn on the emergency flashers and call law enforcement. Be prepared to describe the specific location, such as direction of travel, mile post, nearest intersecting highway, exit or mailbox number.

— It’s usually safest to stay buckled-up inside the vehicle, rather than walking along a highway, which has the risk of being struck by another vehicle;

— Don’t attempt to move an injured deer.

— Deer carcasses on the active, traveled portion of a highway represent an urgent safety hazard and should be reported by calling 911;

— If the carcass is off the traveled portion of the roadway, contact the appropriate county sheriff’s department using the agency’s non-emergency phone number.

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