Have you seen more dead deer on the side of the road? That’s because it’s deer rutting season.
The rutting season is when deer mate, and they tend to move around more during this time, said Jesse Oetgen, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department technical guidance biologist. The peak of rutting season is in mid-November.
“They’re covering more territory than they do other times of the year,” said Oetgen, who is based in Weatherford. “They're maybe not as cautious crossing the roads as they're paying more attention to other bucks or other does just as part of their rutting activity.”
As a result, there is an uptick of deer on the side of roads after being hit by vehicles, Oetgen said.
Often, deer carcasses are left on the side of the road to be cleaned up by scavengers if the deer are not causing a roadway hazard, said Sgt. Richard Hunter, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Oetgen said leaving the dead deer to be cleaned up by scavengers – mainly buzzards – is a natural process.
“Leaving them on side of the road is the way it would happen if the road wasn’t there,” he said.
If the deer carcass is a roadway hazard, it may be picked up and disposed of by local animal control, Hunter said.
Oetgen and Hunter confirmed that law enforcement, such as the local game warden, should be called if a deer is injured and needs to be dispatched.
Having an increase in dead deer on roadways is somewhat beneficial to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department workers because they can collect samples from the roadkill to be tested for chronic wasting disease, which is monitored statewide, Oetgen said.
Because of the increased movement of deer, motorists may encounter deer while driving. If hit, deer can cause severe damage to a vehicle, and drivers can incur injuries or die from this kind of crash, Hunter said.
“A driver should brake to slow the vehicle down and steer to try and avoid the animal, if possible, but should avoid jerking the wheel that could cause the vehicle to lose control,” he said.
If a collision with a deer does occur and there is damage to the driver’s vehicle, property or the driver is injured, Hunter said the crash should be reported to law enforcement. Texas DPS usually investigates crashes with wildlife where there is injury to a person or property damage.
“If there is not going to be an investigation by Texas DPS or other law enforcement, the driver will need to take photos and document the location, time and other information so that they can report the collision to their insurance company,” Hunter said.
Oetgen pointed out that if a deer is killed on the road, it is against the law to keep any part of the deer.
Hunter advises drivers to avoid distractions while driving and be focused on traveling the road. They should also slow down at night and make sure their vehicle’s headlights are functioning properly “to give the driver more light to see the roadway and more time to react to emergency situations.”
“Always wear your seatbelt, every trip, every time,” he said.