Deer Mating Season Increases Risk for Iowa Drivers

(PUBLISHED: A deer crosses Prairie du Chien Road in rural Iowa City last year. The Iowa House Natural Resources Committee heard testimony Monday that the number of deer-vehicle crashes in Iowa has increased from 4,805 to 13,100 per year over the past 20 years.) A deer crosses Prairie Du Chien Roadon Monday, July 1, 2002, in rural Iowa City.

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By Belinda Yeung

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — Iowa drivers need be on the lookout for white-tail deer as the harvest thins the corn fields and the mating season begins.

The deer are moving and aren't thinking about cars on the highways, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported Monday.

Iowa's corn crops make good cover for deer, and as the harvest progresses, the animals scatter, said Tom Litchfield, a deer biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Then, there's the rut, or the breeding season.

"A doe is chased by a buck or multiple bucks for good distances for as long as half a day or longer," Litchfield said.

Last year, Iowa ranked only behind West Virginia on the list of states where an individual driver was most likely to hit a deer, according to State Farm Insurance, which track statistics on deer-related accidents. The company said the chance of a West Virginia motorist striking a deer over 12 months was 1 in 53. In Iowa, the chance was 1 in 77.

November, October and December, in that order, are the most common months for deer accidents, the company said.

State Farm reported $88.1 million in property damage from deer collisions in 2010-2011. The average cost of such crashes was $3,171 per accident, up 2.2 percent from the year before.

Deer are on the move mostly around dawn and dust, but during breeding season, it could be anytime.

If a deer bounds in front of a car or truck, there's not much a driver can do, said Scott Bradfield, a Waterloo State Farm agent. But, he said, there are certain things a driver should never do in that situation.

"The No. 1 thing is if you're going to take on a deer, don't swerve," he said. "There are multiple bad things that can happen when they swerve. The human death, the rollover, they go into another lane or go off-road."

Iowa's deer population peaked at around 500,000 in 2006. It's currently estimated at 290,000, Litchfield said.

In 2011, the Iowa Department of Transportation reported 10,626 deer killed on state roads.

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