Fortunately members of the deer family now roam about everywhere in the United States. One of the down sides to the deer population is that the deer are sometimes hit on the back roads and highways. I can speak from experience that even a small
deer can cause significant auto damage and sadly most deer that are hit die.
In my area, mule deer, white tailed deer and antelope are all residents. Traveling to the mountains means the white tail deer and
antelope are not present but even larger elk or moose can be encountered. How can we enjoy the wildlife and not have these encounters?
One of the best strategies is to keep wildlife in mind and be particularly watchful in wooded areas, near streams and where deer crossing signs are posted. Of course the deer could care less about the signage but such signs are often posted where many car and animal collisions and near collisions have occurred. Mornings and evenings are prime times for collisions because the animals are active and the vision is less clear.
Besides considering the surroundings there are some strategies to use for avoiding collision with wildlife. Many people describe
collisions with deer as, “the deer jumped in front of me”. Recently when driving at night, I saw a doe and two half grown fawns. True to their character, they took a long time to decide which side of the road and then which side of the fence they wanted to escape to. I slowed down and let them make their decision without pressure. Usually a group of deer will stay together but it is hard to predict what their plan is. The expression, “like a deer in the headlights” may have some validity. Some deer seem to panic whether because of the lights or the motion.
Many times antelope are more wary than deer. Certainly they are less likely to use cover and are as likely to be encountered along a wide open stretch of highway as anywhere. Like deer, they will usually stay in a group. Unlike deer, they rarely seem to be about during the night, although it is not unknown. The dangers with antelope on a road are due to their habit of crawling under fences as opposed to leaping over them. A fence that would appear to be an easy leap for them to make, may seem like an obstacle and they
will stop and mill around or crawl under it. Another habit that is dangerous is their tendency to determine their course and stick with it. While it sounds easier to avoid collision than when dealing with the flighty deer, antelope may determine that their path is across the road and even the presence of traffic doesn’t always deter them. If you see them on the road or even running toward the road, stop. Their definition of right away only applies to them! Elk and moose on the highway are definitely something to be aware of when driving in the mountains. These are very large animals and their long legs may put the bulk of their weight at windshield height with a potential for disastrous accident.