Drivers at high risk of hitting deer

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Drivers in the Flathead Valley are being urged to take extra care to avoid hitting deer and other wildlife as the days become shorter and deer mating season begins.

Statistics show that drivers in the Flathead Valley area are especially at risk of hitting a deer compared to the rest of the state, according to Montana Highway Patrol. The result of these crashes can be dangerous and costly.

“In some instances people are able to slow down enough to cause only minor damage to a vehicle, like a broken headlight. But we have also had fatal collisions involving deer,” said Montana Highway Patrol District 6 Commander Duane Bowers.

When you travel 70 mph you are covering the distance of a football field every 3 seconds. If you hit an animal that weights and average of 100 to 120 pounds at that speed it’s enough to do an incredible amount of damage, Bowers said.

It can be especially dangerous when a vehicle hits a deer and throws it into the air. The deer can be projected up and into a windshield.

“It can go all the way through a vehicle. I’ve seen it happen,” Bowers said.

Montana comes in second for states where you are most likely to collide with a deer, according to a study by State Farm Insurance Agency. The study also finds the like the likelihood of colliding with a deer more than doubles during the months of October, November and December — when deer are mating.

“The male deer especially are not paying a whole lot of attention to anything else but finding a suitable female for themselves,” Bowers said.

Flathead County has more wildlife versus vehicle collisions than anywhere else in the state, according to the Montana Highway Patrol. This is because it’s a relatively remote area with prime wildlife habitat, Bowers said.

The best thing you can do to avoid hitting a deer is slow down.

“We tell people that a lot. It’s the simplest thing, but it can be hard to get through,” Bowers said.

The slower you are going, the more reaction time you have to avoid a collision.

Drivers should be especially careful from 5 to 7 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m., the “prime times” for vehicle-wildlife collisions, according to Bowers. Deer also like to travel at night, when there is limited visibility, he said.

On average, one out of every 57 Montana drivers will have a collision caused by a deer, according to State Farm Insurance Agency. The agency reports repair costs for large animal collisions are up nearly $200 from last year, averaging $4,179 per claim.

Reporter Breeana Laughlin can be reached at 758-4441 or blaughlin@dailyinterlake.com.

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