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Beware the deer of June

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Ryan Broege
June 15, 2012
— Spend enough time on Wisconsin roads and you are likely to have at least a near miss with a deer. That fact is especially true in late spring, according to state records.

October and November are the peak season for vehicle-deer collisions, but May and June rank as the second-most dangerous period, according to state Department of Transportation data.


Deer can be deadly—especially for motorcyclists.


Between July 1, 2009, and June 31, 2010, all but one of the 14 motorists who died after hitting deer were riding motorcycles, according to state data.


Thomas Reigle, 53, Janesville, totaled his bike and broke four ribs and a collarbone after hitting a deer in June 2011.


Reigle was driving east on County A near Arbor Ridge Way on his way home from his second-shift job at Varco-Pruden Buildings in Evansville when a deer leaped from the ditch, crossing the road from his left to right.


"Everybody says, 'You'd do this, you'd do that,'" Reigle said. "You do nothing. You have no time to figure out how to react. All I had time to do was grab hold of the clutch and brakes and hang on."


Reigle was thrown from his bike.


"I've been riding for 31 years, now, and that was the first major accident I had," he said. "It's a crapshoot that happens within five seconds. You either drive past it or something happens.


"A lot of the younger people want to go fast, but your best bet this time of year is just to slow down. Lately, I've been traveling 45 to 50 mph on the back roads. It gives a split-second to react."


To avoid deer, the state DOT motorcyclists' handbook recommends braking first, then swerving if necessary, but avoiding a combination of the two.


Kevin Wallenfang, a big game ecologist with state Department of Natural Resources, explained why motorists see more deer as summer gets under way.


"Roadside ditches are the first area to green up, so deer are naturally attracted to the roadways," Wallenfang said. "Does are having fawns this time of year, so at least temporarily they will drive away last year's fawns and try to separate from the older fawns."


According to figures from the state DOT, law enforcement responded to nearly 17,000 vehicle-deer collisions in fiscal year 2010. In Rock County, contractors picked up 380 deer carcasses, and people with permits picked up an additional 93.


Statewide, 39 percent of vehicle-deer crashes were in October and November, and 16 percent were reported in May and June. In eight of the last 15 years, June ranked as the worst, or second-worst month for the number of injuries resulting from vehicle-deer collisions.



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