SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — It’s another sign of the fall season: Deer are migrating to lower elevations in search of food and mates.
This is prompting Utah wildlife officials to issue their annual reminder to drivers, warning them to be extra vigilant for deer, particularly in low-light hours.
“The peak time to hit deer in Utah is during November,” said Blair Stringham, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) migration initiative coordinator.
He told ABC4.com that Utah’s deer migration generally starts at the beginning of October, as the animals leave their summer habitat for mountain valleys.
“Basically, [they’re moving] to escape the snow and stay in areas where they still have food and shelter,” he said, adding that the mating season, or rut, generally begins in early November.
“The bucks are really walking miles and miles a day trying to find does,” Stringham said. “So you see a lot of bucks that get hit this time of year, just because they are crossing the roads a lot and moving all over the place.”
This migration coincides with dwindling daylight hours, making collisions with motorists more likely, especially as deer are most active during the early morning and evening hours, when many drivers are commuting.
While deer begin to roam less in December, Stringham said, the ruminants don’t typically return to higher elevations until April.
According to a 2012 DWR study, Utah recorded roughly 10,000 on deer-related car crashes, Utah collisions that year. However, wildlife officials say that due to more fences and wildlife bridges having been installed in recent years, collision figures have likely dropped over the last decade.
Still, as of this week, officials say there have been over 3,000 deer-involved crashes on Utah roads this year.
Below are a number of tips the DWR says will help reduce the chances of hitting a deer:
- Be especially alert on roadways near wooded, agricultural or wetland areas
- Turn on your headlights in low-light conditions; use brights when possible
- Look for an animal’s eyeshine; if you see it, slow down
- Some animals travel in groups. If you see one deer, there’s a good chance more a nearby
- Don’t swerve for a deer. You could risk crashing into another car
- If several deer are standing in the road, honk your horn and flash your lights until they move