Islanders’ quadrupedal neighbors are on the rut again this fall. November is peak deer mating season in the state, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. With more activities happening with the deer, that means more possibilities for collisions between the animals and vehicles on Martha’s Vineyard.
“The auto versus deer strikes are enormous in number and repair costs,” Chilmark resident Frank Koch said. Koch has a scanner on all the time, which notifies him of these collisions. He said around three happened within 24 hours on West Tisbury’s Middle Road on Friday, and another deer versus car collision happened at Edgartown–West Tisbury Road on Monday.
According to a press release the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) posted in October, the beginning of deer mating season, a car crashed into a deer every two hours in the state in 2020. Other factors, such as drunk driving or drowsiness behind the wheel because of daylight saving time ending, also contribute to deer-vehicle collisions, according to the press release.
“We definitely see an uptick this time of year with the deer moving around more erratically, and with the rut during mating season,” Chilmark Police Sgt.Sean Slavin said.
West Tisbury Police Lt. Skipper Manter said there have not been more deer-vehicle collisions this year compared with other ones, but the increase in collisions during the fall is a common occurrence. Manter said mating and hunting season both occurring during a similar time frame contribute to more deer running into the road.
Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee said many times the serious damage comes from people swerving to avoid the deer. “When a car hits a deer, the damage is substantial, but it doesn’t total the car. Hitting a tree can cause serious injuries,” McNamee said. McNamee said if drivers see a deer running out into the road, they should decelerate, but stay in the lane.
Both officers and chief recommended drivers to be more vigilant for deer during the fall. Slavin said sometimes there are more deer to follow after the first one a driver sees on the road.
“Drive slower than usual, especially during dusk and dawn,” Manter said. Slower driving gives drivers more time to react if a deer comes across their path.
McNamee said if a driver hits a deer, they should call the police. Massachusetts residents are also allowed to take the deer with them, although they should contact the state’s Environmental Police so that records of the animal can be taken.