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    Friday, July 19, 2024

    Recent deer-vs.-car crashes in Connecticut prompt alerts from police, wildlife official

    Deer stand on a field on May 8, 2024. Connecticut State Police and a state wildlife biologist with personal experience about the danger of deer strikes cautioned motorists to be alert after serious deer-vs.-vehicle crashes have occurred recently, including one that was fatal. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

    Connecticut State Police and a state wildlife biologist with personal experience about the danger of deer strikes cautioned motorists to be alert after serious deer-vs.-vehicle crashes have occurred recently, including one that was fatal.

    "The biggest thing is to be mindful and be aware of your surroundings," state police spokesman Sgt. Luke Davis said.

    Last week, a 53-year-old Meriden man driving a motorcycle was killed and his passenger was seriously injured after a deer jumped in front of the bike in Middletown. Just two days earlier, a driver was badly hurt when a deer went through the windshield of a Honda Civic on Interstate 384 in Manchester.

    State police track crashes between vehicles and larger animals, mainly deer, statewide. From May 1 to June 13, the tally was 376, compared with 301 in the same period last year, Davis said.

    However, the long-term trend in deer-vs.-vehicle crashes is downward, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's latest deer report from 2022. Between 6,000 to 7,000 deer have been killed on state roadways annually in recent years, a significant drop from the mid-1990s, when the annual estimate was about 18,000, state wildlife biologist Andrew LaBonte said.

    In previous years, about 21 percent of collisions were in Fairfield County, but the percentage declined steadily to about 13.3 percent in 2022, due in part to extension of the archery season and allowing hunters to use bait on private land, DEEP reported. Of the reported roadkills, Farmington had the most at 20, while the count was 15 in Southbury, 13 in both Bethel and Newtown, 12 in Portland, and 11 each in Glastonbury and Wallingford.

    LaBonte said his wife was driving in Franklin recently when a deer ran down a hill toward the car. Alerted by her passenger, his wife had slowed almost to a stop when the deer slammed into the car's left front, causing about $4,600 in damage. The animal was dazed, but ran off, LaBonte said.

    The crash happened in broad daylight, he said, but deer are most active at dawn and dusk and particularly during spring and fall.

    "Unfortunately, that's when people are going to and from work," LaBonte said, "so that puts more people at risk. Just be cognizant and don't be on your phone."

    This time of year, young bucks born last year are more prone to traveling greater distances, while in the fall, "males are chasing the females and they're not paying attention at all," LaBonte said.

    Years ago while driving in Groton at about 4 a.m., headed back from tracking deer as part of his job, LaBonte said he hit a deer with a state vehicle.

    "I never even saw the deer," he said. "It was super foggy."

    Davis also noted that Connecticut is among the most densely forested states, so motorists often will have little warning on back roads when a deer runs out of the woods.

    The overall odds of a driver hitting an animal in Connecticut is 1 in 267, compared with 1 in 127 nationwide, according to State Farm. The state ranked 39th for the number of crashes and 43rd for risk of a car-versus-animal collisions, the insurance company reported. West Virginia drivers had the greatest odds at 1 in 38, followed by Montana (1 in 53), Pennsylvania (1 in 59), Michigan (1 in 60) and Wisconsin (1 in 60), according to State Farm.

    Roadkill reports provide important information about the health and density of Connecticut's deer population, according to DEEP. Although not nearly as widespread in the state as deer, moose pose a greater hazard to motorists due in part to their height and the likelihood that a struck animal will impact a vehicle's windshield. According to a report from the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, collisions with moose are 13 times more likely to result in the death of a person in a vehicle compared with collisions with deer.

    To avoid these crashes, motorists should slow down, particularly at dawn and dusk, officials say. Use high beams when appropriate and avoid swerving if an animal is in the roadway. Instead, brake firmly and stay in the lane.

    Asked about deer whistles, devices that attach to a vehicle and are meant to scare deer away from the roadway, LaBonte said the whistles do not work at highway speeds and there is little evidence of their effectiveness at any speed.

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