Fewer Deer In The Road

Deer crossing sign on a residential street (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

5 December 2023

Back in early September I urged us all to start paying attention and Be Careful Out There! Deer in the Road. Deer were restless in the run-up to the rut and had started to move around. From late October through November they mindlessly crossed in front of traffic, but now in early December the bulk of the rut is over and soon (if not already) there are fewer deer in the road. We can almost relax our vigilance because …

Chasing each other: During the rut — October and November — bucks roam in search of mates and chase does on the move. Driven by hormones, all of them ignore vehicles in the heat of sexual pursuit.

Deer crossing the road in northwestern Ohio (photo by Starley Shelton via Flickr Creative Commons license)

After the rut deer calm down and return to their home range where they stay December to September. Home ranges in Pennsylvania’s forests are approximately 800 acres (a 1.2 mile radius) and in urban areas just 100-300 acres. Even if the range includes road crossing(s) deer are not chasing each other and they know about cars. Many now watch and wait for traffic. Females that pay attention to vehicles live to reproduce and teach their fawns to watch and wait (when it’s not the rut).

Never run from hunters: Some people say that deer run into traffic to get away from hunters but studies have shown that the animals use a completely different strategy. They never run to evade hunters. Instead they stay put and hide.

Since 2013 Penn State’s Deer-Forest Study has tagged and tracked more than 1,200 white-tailed deer around 100 square miles of Pennsylvania forest. In the process they’ve learned that successful deer, the ones that survive hunting seasons, actually know when hunting is about to start and search for a good hiding place in advance. Then each day before dawn (hunters cannot hunt until after dawn) deer go to their hiding places and wait quietly until the afternoon when the hunters have left the woods.

One tracked doe’s hiding spot was incredibly hard for people to reach and impossible to sneak up on. Read about a family’s visit to Hillside Doe’s Hiding Spot.

Watch Hillside Doe’s movements during hunting season. She didn’t have to cross roads to get there.

video posted by Duane Diefenbach on YouTube

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