outdoor dead deer.jpg

Lancaster County motorists are never more likely to hit a deer than in November.

You can’t help but notice it this time of year: the carcasses of deer strewn on roadsides or in grassy medians.

On a drive in both directions of Route 283 between Lancaster and Harrisburg last weekend, I counted probably a dozen dead deer. And that’s not counting the bloodstained pavement of recent deer-vehicle collisions where deer had already been removed or staggered out of sight before dying.

I saw the remains of three deer in East Hempfield Township where I wouldn’t even expect a deer population.

Why are so many deer darting in front of car and trucks this time of year?

Think two words: the rut.

November is the peak of the time of year when bucks are out of their minds in pursuit of does that are receptive to breeding. For the female deer, that is called in estrus, and only lasts 24 hours. If a doe is not bred during that time, another estrus period will occur about 28 days later.

The drive of bucks is fueled by hormones that, in turn, are triggered by declining periods of daylight. Bucks are ready and willing to breed from around October into December. But the peak of the time does are ready is in November.

So, this time of year, bucks abandon caution and are almost constantly on the move, ranging farther than normal in pursuit of the smell of does in heat. That mindless chase and abeyance of their normal caution increase the chances of your grill coming in contact with a lust-driven wanderer.

Many of the female deer struck this time of year quite possibly are fleeing the advances of their male counterparts.

The recent change to daylight saving time now puts more motorists on the road during the peak dusk period for deer movement.

One measure of this furtive chase in the woods is all the bodies of deer strewn across back roads and highways this time of year.

Another measure is the increase in collision claims insurance companies see each year around now.

According to State Farm, which tracks these things, Pennsylvania drivers have a one in 54 chance of hitting a deer this year based on last year’s claim rates. That’s the fourth-highest rate in the nation, following West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota.

According to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, there were 119 deer-vehicle collisions in Lancaster County in 2020 in which damage claims were filed. Twenty-one of those crashes resulted in injuries.

What can you do to avoid a collision? I’ve hit two deer in my lifetime and in both cases the deer leaped from the roadside without warning. But I also have avoided many other close calls by being vigilant. I try to have my high beams on as much as possible and am constantly looking ahead for an illuminated deer on the side of the road or the shine of their eyeballs.

Remember that the peak time of deer movement is dawn and dusk. According to statistics, only 20 percent of deer collisions happen during daylight.

If you hit and kill a deer, or come across a deer recently hit by someone else, you can keep it if you are a Pennsylvania resident. But if removing the deer, you have to call the regional office of the Pennsylvania Game Commission within 24 hours and be given the number of a free permit to keep the deer. In Lancaster County, the regional office phone number is 610-926-3136. To report a dead deer for removal on state-owned roads, call PennDOT at 800-349-7623.

Ad Crable is an LNP outdoors writer.

What to Read Next