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For Love of Nature

For Love of Nature: Watch out for deer during rutting season

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Bucks are single-minded this time of year as they focus on finding a mate.

As rutting season continues, deer are especially prone to dart out in the road, and with daylight ending earlier, the likelihood of colliding with a deer after work increases immensely as the number of carcasses along the road attests.

October through December is a particularly dangerous time of year for deer and motorists, the period when more than half of all collisions occur.

Be especially careful when driving at dawn and dusk. If you see a deer crossing the road, slow down immediately and continue to drive slowly. More deer are likely to cross.

Do not swerve to miss a deer. Brake and stay in your lane. Losing control of your vehicle, crossing into another lane, hitting an oncoming vehicle or leaving the road will almost always result in a more serious accident than hitting a deer.

According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, vehicle accidents involving deer are responsible for less than 2% of all casualties in Virginia, with an average of three fatalities. But more than 450 injuries are attributed to deer-vehicle accidents annually, along with many more car repairs.

There is no doubt that we are overrun with deer. We have created ideal habitat for them with a mixture of woods, fields, gardens and brush. Without fences, it’s difficult to grow anything successfully. They also destroy many important native plants in forests.

In fact, there may be twice as many deer in Virginia today — nearly 1 million — than when Jamestown was settled.

Native Americans relied on white-tailed deer for meat, hides and sinew. Deer were plentiful and widespread in the early 1600s, but by 1900, European settlers had nearly wiped out the species.

With the institution of game laws, deer rebounded quickly. Since the early 1990s, deer management objectives have switched from restoration to controlling and stabilizing populations.

Under optimum conditions, a deer population can double in size annually. Does breed early, generally after a year, have twins most years and continue to breed for eight to 10 years.

Bucks range over 600 acres, while does tend to stick within a 200-acre area.

Regulated hunting is the most effective method available for managing wild deer populations. Firearm season already is under way so be sure to wear blaze orange if you are tramping through the woods.

Since 2000, Virginia hunters have killed an average of 225,000 deer annually, with nearly 45% of them being does. Hunting is necessary and preferable to vehicle collisions.

Hunters for the Hungry continues to provide an important protein source for a lot of people. In October, the group received $8,000 from the Bedford Community Health Foundation to process and distribute 6,400 pounds of venison, or 25,600 servings, to those in need.

In fact, more people should be eating venison. Not only do we need to curb the deer population, it’s far more humane to eat a wild animal than those confined in feed lots. Food for thought.

Shannon Brennan can be reached at shannonw481@gmail.com.

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