Fall is mating season for deer in Georgia, which means the state’s 1.2 million whitetails will be more active and more likely to be involved in a car crash during the next six weeks, particularly on Georgia Highway 56 in metro Augusta.
Since 2011, deer have caused more than 1,700 collisions – and as a result, 62 injuries – in Richmond, Columbia, Burke and Aiken counties, according to data provided by the Georgia Department of Transportation and South Carolina Highway Patrol.
The Augusta Chronicle analyzed the wreck reports and found Highway 56 is the area’s most dangerous for deer-car crashes, accounting for 102 collisions in the past three years for motorists traveling between Richmond and Burke counties.
No fatalities have resulted from the deer-car wrecks.
“Deer are on the move during this time of year, and while motorists in rural areas may expect to see more of them, Georgia’s suburban and urban areas can be prime spots as well,” said Don McGowan, a senior biologist with the state Department of Natural Resource’s Wildlife Resources Division.
With an estimated 50,000 deer-car collisions annually in Georgia, McGowan said hunting is often mistakenly blamed for increased deer-car collisions.
“There actually are natural explanations for increased deer activity,” he said.
With the recent time change, McGowan said, roads are particularly dangerous in the autumn and winter, as shorter days and longer nights make it harder to see the male deer that between now and early December “go into rut and begin actively searching for mates.”
“Rush hour for most commuters tends to fall during the same hours in which white-tailed deer are most active – dawn and dusk,” he said.
As of Monday, Tracy Bryant, the operations manager at Kendrick Paint and Body, said his shop’s eight Augusta locations have each repaired more than five vehicles that were damaged from deer wrecks in the last two weeks.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates car-deer crashes cause at least $1 billion in damage each year, at an average of $2,000 per vehicle.
“We have been overwhelmed,” Bryant said. “In one vehicle, the deer went straight through the front windshield.”
Deer-car crashes peaked at 560 wrecks in Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties during mating season, but the Chronicle’s analysis showed drivers should remain cautious into January. The month has ranked third in deer-car crashes since 2011, at 153 wrecks.