‘Oh Deer!’ DEC warns motorists of increased deer on North Country roads

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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — With fewer hours of daylight, more motorists will be on the road in the dark this fall. This creates more risks of colliding with an animal as they are harder to see, especially in areas with high deer populations.

Across the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 6, which includes the North Country, deer populations range. However, the highest deer populations currently are in Jefferson County along the St. Lawrence Valley.

According to DEC Wildlife Biologists Heerkens, who specializes in big game research, one of the reasons for an increased activity near the roads is it being a peak season for deer mating in the region.

“You’ll have bucks that will start running around, looking for does. The males are ready to breed before the doe are. And so on that front half of the season, you’ll get the bucks out, running around, looking for females,” Heerkens stated.”

This specifically occurs in October and November. In the North Country, this season typically ends by December.

Another factor that the DEC attributes to more accidents with deer is daylight savings time. Heerkens said this is because drivers are on the roads during the “peak” activity time for deer or other large animals.

“When daylight savings time changes, the peak commuting time is right at last light,” Heerkens noted. “And of course, that’s when deer really start moving after dark, and that’s also when the most people are on the road.”

With this, deer and vehicle accidents are more likely. The DEC warns that this can occur in the smallest neighborhood streets to major highways such as I-81.

DEC Lt. Aaron Markey, who supervises the Division of Law Enforcement in Herkimer and Oneida County, addressed the most common mistakes drivers can make on the road. He said he could not count the number of collision calls the Division responds to.

“[The biggest mistake] is not paying attention because [deer] can run out into the road pretty fast,” Lt. Markey said. “Sometimes you’ll see them on the side of the road, winding around and something can startle them and they can just instantly run out in front of you. So you always want to be cognizant of your environment.”

But if a driver does hit a deer, or another animal, Lt. Markey said the first step is to contact law enforcement. He then said to check all damage to the vehicle and see if the animal is alive. If the animal is alive, all forms of law enforcement have the capability to perform euthanizations if necessary.

If in an accident with an animal call 911, or the following offices:

  • DEC Region 6 Watertown Office: 315-785-2239
  • Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office: 315-786-2700
  • Lewis County Sheriff’s Office: 315-376-3511
  • St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office: 315-379-2222

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