As Minnesota’s 1.2 million white-tailed deer population begins mating
season and becomes more active, the Minnesota departments of Public
Safety (DPS) and Natural Resources (DNR) urge motorist to drive at safe
speeds and pay attention. Deer movement peaks after sundown and before
photo courtesy Explore Minnesota Tourism
In the last three years in Minnesota, 2006-, there were 9,820
deer-vehicle crashes resulting in 18 deaths of which 16 were
motorcyclists. The crashes also resulted in 76 serious injuries of which
57 were motorcyclists. DPS reports the overrepresentation of
motorcyclists is due to the fact that motorcyclists lack the protective
cage other motorists have in vehicles. DPS and DNR estimate that only
one-third of the crashes are reported.
“Deer-vehicle crashes are hard to avoid, but these crashes can be
prevented if motorists buckle up, drive at safe speeds and never swerve
when encountering a deer in the road,” said Cheri Marti, director of
DPS Office of Traffic Safety. “Swerving to avoid a deer or any other
animal can result in your vehicle going off the road or into oncoming
traffic. The best defense is to be buckled and brake.”
Marti said that a motorcyclist’s best response is to slow down
quickly and, unlike other vehicles, swerve around the animal if traffic
allows. Riders are encouraged to wear helmets and other protective gear
to prevent injury or death in a crash.
Col. Jim Konrad, DNR Enforcement director noted that being
knowledgeable about deer activities can also help Minnesotan’s stay
out of harm’s way, especially during the fall breeding season,
commonly referred to as the “rut.” During the rut, deer are more
active than usual as they become preoccupied with mating. Summer’s
fawns can also make their ways onto roadways after their mothers leave
them to mate.
“It’s a time when deer don’t seem to maintain that invisibility
and distance that typically keeps them from dangerous interactions with
motorists,” Konrad said. He noted that drivers shouldn’t assume
trouble has passed completely when a deer successfully crosses the road.
Deer frequently travel in groups.
Hunters also play a role in moving deer during daylight hours. Small
game hunters moving through fields occasionally flush deer from their
resting places. Bear and bow hunters also flush deer from forested
“If you see hunters in blaze orange near the road it’s probably a
good idea to slow down, especially if you hear gunfire,” Konrad said.
Motorists also should slow down whenever farmers are harvesting
cornfields because deer are often flushed from fields as farm equipment
If a deer is struck by a vehicle, but not killed, drivers are urged to
stay their distance because some deer may recover and move on. However,
if a deer does not move on, or poses a public safety risk, drivers are
encouraged to report the incident to a DNR conservation officer or other
local law enforcement agency.
Motorist Safety Tips for Deer:
· Drive at safe speeds and be prepared and alert for
· Don’t swerve to avoid a deer, this can cause you to lose control
and travel off the road or into oncoming traffic. The best defense is to
buckle up and brake.
· Don’t count on deer whistles or deer fences to deter deer from
crossing roads in front of you. Stay alert.
· Watch for the reflection of deer eyes and for deer silhouettes
on the shoulder of the road. If anything looks slightly suspicious, slow
· Slow down in areas known to have a large deer population; where
deer-crossing signs are posted; places where deer commonly cross roads;
areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forest land; and
whenever in forested areas between dusk and dawn.
· Deer do unpredictable things. Sometimes they stop in the middle
of the road when crossing. Sometimes they cross and quickly re-cross
back from where they came; sometimes they move toward an approaching
vehicle. Assume nothing. Slow down; blow your horn to urge the deer to
leave the road. Stop if the deer stays on the road; don’t try to go
· Any Minnesota resident may claim a road-killed animal by
contacting a law enforcement officer. An authorization permit will be
issued allowing the individual to lawfully possess the deer.