Like all wildlife, deer behavior can be especially erratic and unpredictable. Drivers should remain alert to deer making a sudden appearance crossing the roadway to avoid a collision that can result in extensive damage to vehicles and possible personal injury. Photo by Stacy Fisher

Avoid deer-vehicle collisions with these tips

Wild animals often appear on the roadway unexpectedly, and their actions can be unpredictable.

That’s certainly the case with the local deer population that has made its way back from the lowlands to make a grand appearance this spring in the forests and meadows of Plumas County — and sometimes in the roadways as well.

With the season in full bloom after an especially rainy winter, deer have abundant mountain grass and other plants to eat this year, so expect numerous sightings.

The American Automobile Association encourages drivers to use caution and remain alert to avoid becoming involved in a collision with wildlife.

There are more than 1 million collisions involving vehicles and deer and other animals per year in the U.S., according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, sending 10,000 people to the hospital with various injuries — some serious.

In addition, the IIHS reported that deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S. cause nearly 200 fatalities annually, and $4 billion in vehicle damage.

USFS wildlife biologist Coye Burnett offered some basic advice should drivers encounter deer on the road, including staying vigilant for any sign of deer in your periphery.

If you see a deer on the roadway or crossing suddenly, “Don’t over-react,” Burnett said, noting that there’s a likelihood that other deer are nearby.

Although deer-vehicle collisions can cause extensive vehicle damage, Burnett cautioned drivers not to take evasive action at the last second as this could cause the most serious injuries.

“Drivers should avoid swerving or leaving the road,” she advised, which can result in hitting a tree, going off a cliff or crashing into other objects.

Instead, “Apply the brakes firmly if a deer unexpectedly appears crossing the road ahead of you,” she recommended, “and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop.”

Burnett added that honking your horn might startle the deer enough to cause it to quickly leave the roadway.

However, if it seems like you can’t avoid hitting the deer, “you may have no other choice than to just hit it.”

It’s safer to hit a deer, Burnett explained, “than to risk crashing into a fixed object such as a telephone pole or oncoming traffic.”