As fall turns to winter over the next few months, drivers on the roadways in the Historic Triangle need to keep an eye out for hidden dangers.
“Truthfully, [deer are] anywhere, really everywhere,” said David Garst, district biologist for James City County with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. “There’s just deer everywhere, so many of them in James City County and York County.”
Garst said to prepare for deer crossing the roadways, motorists should practice defensive driving. This means being educated on areas where deer could be hiding and always being prepared if one might cross the road.
Garst said it’s common for deer to be seen along fields, but especially where there is a line of trees which can provide a travel corridor for the deer. This creates an area where deer feel as though they can cross a particular section of road because of the trees. Additionally, Garst said the deer like to shield themselves behind humps of land, which might break up their silhouette and make it harder for drivers to see them.
“They’ll look for a place where they feel comfortable crossing,” he said. “Sometimes you might get a deer near businesses or a busier area, though, because it might’ve been spooked out of a neighborhood. They get really freaked out when that happens.”
Fall is breeding season for deer, according to a news release from VDGIF. That means deer will be more active during the season.
However, Garst said the old saying “where you see one deer, there’s more” isn’t always necessarily true.
Some deer prefer to travel alone, especially more mature bucks who tend to be more solitary. But the closer to November, the more likely it will be that drivers will encounter pairs or more of deer as the mating season kicks off.
“It’s attributed to biology,” Garst said. “When [breeding season kicks in] they’re going crazy for a spell of several days. There’s a biological reason for it.”
Dusk to dawn are particularly important times of movement for deer, he said. During these low-light times are when deer prefer to travel, but it also makes them more difficult to spot.
“It’ll be the morning and evening commute that people will get to see a lot of deer moving,” he said. “When people are going from Williamsburg to York County and especially along the Colonial Parkway, there’s a ton of deer. But more of it is about driver awareness and paying attention to what you’re doing, don’t be texting, you have to expect [deer] to come out.”
While there are precautions drivers can take to make sure they don’t hit a deer, there will still be times that crashes happen. To avoid hitting a deer should one cross your path, VDGIF suggests applying the brakes or coming to a stop, but drivers should never swerve out of their lane to avoid hitting a deer. This could result in a collision with another vehicle or other mishaps.
When a driver hits a deer with their vehicle, it is required by law that the person report the incident to a conservation police officer, commonly known as a game warden, or other law enforcement agencies in the locality where the crash occurred, according to the VDGIF website. Garst said the reports are important at the very least so that motorists have proof when submitting an insurance claim.
As the days get shorter and deer mating season slowly encroaches, Garst said drivers should be constantly alert for deer crossing the roadways.
“It’s a lot in James City County,” he said. “People just have to pay attention.”