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It’s the time of year for deer collisions

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It’s not only hunters who should be keeping an eye out for deer this week.

Motorists, too, are urged to “Fear the Deer,” as the Minnesota Department of Public Safety put it, as rut and crop harvest activity get into full swing and deer start to move around.

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Adding to the danger for motorists, said Sgt. Curt Mowers of the Brainerd State Patrol District, will be his week’s rifle deer hunting season opener, which will have deer on the move even more.

“Our message pertains to people taking the wrong action,” Mowers said. “Most of the deer people are hitting seem to be deer mostly running out from the side, really fast, already there.

“But when a motorist sees a deer up ahead on the roadway they should not be hitting those deer. They should be able to stop. That’s why some of those deer that are getting hit and that’s definitely the responsibility of driver.”

The best proactive advice for motorists is always wearing a seat belt, paying attention and slowing down in areas where deer might be, especially in wooded areas, Mowers said.

His advice for reacting to deer on the road is to not jerk the wheel, especially to the left as the motorist may swerve into oncoming traffic on a two-lane road.

“Unless you’re really confident you can turn the vehicle around a deer, avoid it,” Mowers said. “Dumping speed is the best thing to do and go straight on. We want you to go right through it. A deer can come through a windshield, it’s happened before but it doesn’t happen a lot.”

Motorcyclists especially need to keep an eye out, Mowers said. He noted this year there have been numerous fatalities in the state involving motorcycles colliding with deer. In addition to the advice given to other vehicle drivers, Mowers said motorcyclists should avoid driving at low light periods or without helmets and other protective gear.

There were 7,751 deer versus vehicle crashes reported to the Department of Public Safety during the last three years and more than one-third of those crashes took place in October and November.

Statistics from the Department of Public Safety on vehicle versus deer collision show that in 2010 there were 11 collisions in Aitkin County with two people injured, 26 collisions in Cass County with two people injured, 35 collisions in Crow Wing County with one fatality and 11 people injured, 10 collisions in Mille Lacs County with six people injured, 16 collisions in Morrison County with five people injured, 16 collisions in Todd County with three people injured and seven collisions in Wadena County with no injuries.

Between Oct. 26-30, Todd County deputies alone responded to nine reports of vehicles striking deer on county roads, including one collision which resulted in series injuries for the driver after the vehicle rolled in the ditch.

Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl and Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch echoed the need for motorists to drive with caution during the fall months.

As with any type of adverse road conditions, Dahl said motorists need to use common sense and drive to the conditions.

“I’d encourage everybody to just slow down a bit knowing the large number of people we’ll have driving our roads in the number of hunters we’ll have in the woods this weekend,” Dahl said.

Burch said the number of car versus deer collisions has been increasing the past three weeks, which is common for the time of year. He said it is not uncommon for his office to receive four or five such crashes in a day.

“Even one day while I was driving into work last week I came across three of them,” Burch said.

Whether such crashes increase during rifle deer hunting season is up for debate among the sheriffs. Dahl said hunters tend to push deer out of the woods and onto roads, while Burch said collision probably decreased during hunting season because the deer tend to hide under hunting pressure.

“Either way, it’s a big time of the year for all of us throughout the state,” Dahl said.

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at matt.erickson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5857.

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