Much like the mating rituals of a teenage boy trailing the faint scent of perfume wafting after his potential love interest, deer are often lured down an unfortunate path by the scent of a female.
Adolescent boys usually outgrow their teen years with only minor embarrassment, but for deer, mating season or rut, which runs from October to December, can be fatal.
The number of deer-related car crashes in Tennessee rises dramatically in the fall months. November — the start of deer-hunting season — is the worst month for deer-related crashes. A five-year statewide average shows there were 1,199 crashes per year from 2005-2009.
In 2009, there were 5,247 deer-related crashes, including 268 that involved injuries and one that was fatal, according the Tennessee Department of Transportation. That was up by almost 2 percent from 5,157 the previous year. However, since 2005, deer-related crashes in Tennessee have risen over 8.5 percent.
In February, an 8-year-old girl was killed, and her father and three siblings injured, when a deer crashed through the windshield of their car as they drove along Highway 100 near Percy Warner Park.
Davidson County statistics follow a similar course. In 2004, there were 156 car-deer collisions. That number has climbed each year with 176 in 2005, 177 in 2006, 172 in 2007 and 194 in 2008.
Nationally, the figures are even more profound. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported approximately 150 deaths a year from deer-car collisions and $1 billion in vehicle damage.
State Farm, the nation's leading auto insurer, estimates 2.3 million collisions between deer and vehicles occurred in the U.S. between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2010. That's 21.1 percent more than five years earlier.
“Motorists should always be aware of the likelihood of deer traveling on or around the roadways, no matter what time of year,” said THP Col. Tracy Trott. “However, it is particularly important to pay attention and stay alert, especially on roads less traveled, during hunting and mating season.”
Motorists should exercise extra caution when not traveling on a major thoroughfare. Between 2005 and 2009, less than 10 percent of deer-related crashes occurred on interstate highways.
The Department of Safety and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency offers the following tips to help prevent deer-related crashes during peak mating and hunting seasons:
• Remember that mating season puts deer on the move and deer tend to move at dawn and dusk.
• Whenever you see deer cross the road, expect more to follow. Many times, the second or third deer crossing becomes the one that motorists hit.
• Be attentive; drive defensively, constantly scanning the roadside, especially at daybreak and dusk.
• When you spot a deer, slow down immediately. Proceed slowly until you pass that point.
• If you do collide with a deer, never approach the injured animal. They are powerful and can cause bodily harm to a human. Report any deer collision, even if the damage is minor.