The best hunting adventures lie off the beaten path, but an exciting excursion does not come without risks. One of the biggest risks during hunting season is animal-vehicle collisions. Anytime you enter rural areas or a wild habitat, you need to be aware of deer and other animals venturing into the roadway. Hitting these creatures can result in serious damage to your vehicle and everyone inside. To help you stay safe on your next adventure, here is everything that you need to know about animal-vehicle collisions.
Preventing a Collision
Deer are one of the most common animals hit during an animal-vehicle collision. This is due to their numbers, their tendency to live close to civilization, and their tendency to dart across roadways in a split second. Bears and other wildlife are also involved in damaging collisions, however, and so the following guidelines are not limited to just deer.
To avoid collisions with deer and other wildlife:
- Drive slower in areas known for wildlife populations. This includes most rural and wooded areas.
- Remain extra alert for deer in early morning hours, at dusk and at all times of the day or night during the rutting period, which lasts from early October until early- to mid-January. These are the times deer are most active and more likely to behave unpredictably. Elk share the same rutting season and, along with Moose in some parts of the country, are also common factors in collisions. The larger size of elk and moose make hitting them even more dangerous than hitting an average-sized deer.
- If one deer has crossed the road, expect others to follow. Deer and elk often travel in groups.
- Avoid swerving, which can make you lose control of your vehicle and endanger your life and other travelers on the road. If you can’t avoid it, apply the brakes to slow your speed as much as possible and keep both hands on the wheel. Braking will at least lessen the impact if the animal doesn’t get out of the way.
- Use your high beams when no other cars are around. This illuminates more of the area in front of you to increase the visibility of any animal in the road or at the side of the road.
- Wear your seatbelt. The impact of hitting an animal can be enough to eject you from your vehicle or throw you into the windshield. Don’t rely on your airbags alone to protect you.
What To Do if you Hit an Animal
- Pull off to the side of the road if you can. Check yourself and any passengers for injuries and call the police to report what has happened right away. Laws regarding this protocol vary from state to state, but when in doubt, call it in anyway. They can let you know if you should remain at the scene until an emergency responder arrives or, if your vehicle is still drivable, if you can continue on your way.
- For insurance purposes, it’s a good idea to take photos of the damage and contact your insurance agent as soon as you can.
- Injured animals are unpredictable and might become aggressive. Avoid touching any wildlife you hit, including dead animals that might be carrying diseases.
Animal-vehicle collisions can be traumatic. Staying aware, alert, and informed reduces your risk of having your adventure end in disaster. Sometimes animal encounters can’t be avoided. Keep a level head while driving you’ll be more likely to come with minimal damage to yourself, your vehicle, or others on the road.