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ANNAPOLIS (Nov. 12, 2009) - Ah, the things we do for love.
School girls draw hearts on notebooks. Men spend months of salary on diamond engagement rings. Deer dart into traffic.
With mating season at its peak, many lovesick deer are charging across roadways in search of potential mates, creating danger for themselves and Maryland drivers. State officials and safety experts advise motorists to stay alert, watch their speed and, most importantly, don't veer for deer.
The vast majority of Maryland deer mate in the fall, said Brian Eyler of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Also called "the rut," mating season peaks during the first weeks of November, meaning higher levels of activity for deer.
"They're on a mission," Eyler said.
Deer use scent to find potential mates, said Eyler, which often brings them into the roadway.
"If you've got a buck on one side of the road and he smells a doe in heat on the other side of the road, he's going to cross that road," Eyler said.
The number of deer collisions has been on the rise in the past five years, said Maria Jackson, a spokeswoman for State Farm Insurance in Maryland. She speculates the increase is the result of more registered drivers in the state as well as a "combination of the growing deer population and the displacement of their habitat caused by urban sprawl."
Drivers can take several steps to avoid hitting deer, said Charlie Gischlar, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. They can pay particular attention during dawn and dusk when deer are most active, drive with their high beams on and slow down if they see a deer -- where there's one, there's most likely a herd.
But, if a deer darts into the road, Gischlar urges drivers to "never veer for deer," as swerving could cause the car to collide with trees or other cars.
"It's an instinct that you really have to fight," Gischlar said. "It's best to hit the animal instead of doing a quick, quick evasive maneuver."
Collisions with deer can be costly for motorists (notwithstanding their obvious impact on the deer). The average cost for repairs after a deer strike is about $3,050, according to State Farm.
Collisions with deer can on rare occasions result in injury or death. In 2007, 1,962 crashes involving deer and other animals in the state killed two people and injured 458, according to the Deer Vehicle Crash Information Clearinghouse (www.deercrash.com).
Deer mating season wraps up at the end of November.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.