Fall back, slow down and look out for rutting deer
You might call it, quite literally, a case of bad timing because, when you mix Eastern Standard Time with the whitetail rut, you get a potentially deadly combination. The reason? The end of Daylight Saving Time puts more vehicles on the road during the hours when deer are most active. It’s a recipe for disaster. Consequently, now that our clocks have “fallen back” an hour, the folks at the Pennsylvania Game Commission are urging motorists to slow down and stay alert.
According to most estimations, the rut, aka the whitetail deer’s fall breeding season, is set to peak over the next two weeks. During this time, many yearling bucks disperse from the areas in which they were born and travel, sometimes several dozen miles, to find new ranges. Meanwhile, adult bucks more often are cruising their home ranges in search of does, and they sometimes chase the does they encounter.
Add to this the fact autumn sees a number of people taking part in outdoor activities that might flush deer from forested areas or briar thickets, and that deer are more actively feeding to store energy for winter months, and it quickly becomes evident why motorists might be more likely to encounter deer on roads. If you travel the highways and byways of our region, you’ve no doubt already noticed a spike in the number of roadkills. With the advent of Eastern Standard Time, those numbers are bound to increase.
When Daylight Saving Time ended Sunday morning at 2:00 a.m., it signaled a significant increase in vehicular traffic between dusk and dawn — the peak hours for deer activity. “While the peak of the rut still is a few weeks off, deer already have increased their activity and are crossing roads,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “While motorists — at any time of year — are well advised to stay alert and be on the lookout for whitetails while driving, it’s especially important now and in the coming weeks.”
Each year insurance provider State Farm compiles a report on the likelihood drivers in each state will collide with a deer or other large animal, and Pennsylvania regularly is near the top of list. This year is no exception. In the 2017 report, released earlier this month, Pennsylvania remained third among states. According to the report, Pennsylvania drivers have a 1-in-63 chance of experiencing a collision with a deer or other large animal, up a 6.3 percent from 2016.
Drivers can reduce their chances of collisions with deer by staying alert and better understanding deer behavior. Just paying attention while driving on stretches marked with “Deer Crossing” signs can make a difference. Deer often travel in family groups and walk single file. So even if one deer successfully crosses the road in front of a driver, it doesn’t mean the threat is over. Another could be right behind it.
A driver who hits a deer with vehicle is not required to report the accident to the Game Commission. If the deer dies, only Pennsylvania residents may claim the carcass. To do so, they must call the Game Commission region office representing the county where the accident occurred and an agency dispatcher will collect the information needed to provide a free permit number, which the caller should write down.
A resident must call within 24 hours of taking possession of the deer. A passing Pennsylvania motorist also may claim the deer, if the person whose vehicle hit it doesn’t want it.
Those taking possession road-killed deer also are advised of rules related to chronic wasting disease (CWD) that prohibit the removal of high-risk deer parts — essentially the head and backbone — from any established Disease Management Area (DMA). Those parts must be removed before the deer is transported outside a DMA. For DMA maps, the complete list of high-risk parts and other information on CWD, visit the Game Commission’s website at www. pgc.pa.gov.
Antlers from bucks killed in vehicle collisions either must be turned over to the Game Commission, or may be purchased for $10 per point by the person who claims the deer. Also, removing antlers from roadkilled bucks is illegal.
If a deer is struck by a vehicle, but not killed, drivers are urged to maintain their distance because some deer might 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 Game Commission regional office or other local law-enforcement agency. If the deer must be put down, the Game Commission will direct the proper person to do so.
To report a dead deer for removal from state roads, motorists can call the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation at 1-800-FIX-ROAD.
Although most Pennsylvania outdoorsy types are now focused on our ongoing hunting seasons, fishing opportunities also abound in the fall. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s fall trout stocking program is now underway. Some upcoming stocking efforts here in the southeast include Deep Creek Dam in Montgomery County and Antietam Reservoir in Berks, both slated for next week. Anglers can see a complete list of the fall stocking schedules by visiting the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s (PFBC) stocking pages. Scroll down and look for links to “Fall Stockings Statewide” and “Winter Stockings Statewide.”
The fall and winter months are considered an extended season for trout and have lower daily limits. Continuing through February 28, anglers can keep three trout each day. Class A wild trout streams are strictly catch and immediate release, with no harvesting allowed.