The history of SRS deer-vehicle accidents...
small groups of white-tailed deer existed in remote areas of what
is now known as the Savannah River Site (SRS). As
the idle farmland was converted to pine plantations and public hunting
was suspended, these deer began to increase dramatically in number.
By 1965 the deer population on the SRS had increased to the point
where vehicle accidents were occurring at a high rate. In that year,
public hunting was begun on the SRS to control the number of deer
and reduce the number of accidents. In 1990 the Savannah River Ecology
Laboratory (SREL) began a study to better understand the factors that
were contributing to deer-vehicle accidents. The information presented
here is based upon analyses of nearly 1,000 collisions between deer
and vehicles in the 1990s on the SRS.
Statistics on deer-vehicle accidents...
Deer-vehicle accidents on the SRS resulted in an average of $110,000
per year in reported damage to personal and government property over
the six-year period between 1990 and 1995. Injured or dead deer are
also found without anyone reporting the accident or the amount of
damage to their vehicles. We estimate this unreported damage could
be as much as $20,000 per year.
When do accidents occur?
Most accidents occur during dawn
and dusk, a period of two hours before and after sunrise and one hour
before to four hours after sunset. Few accidents occur outside of
these times and the majority occur within one hour before and after
sunrise and sunset. There is a strong seasonal pattern to accident
occurrence which does not vary greatly among years. The majority of
accidents occur in the fall of the year, within a 60 day period around
the peak of the mating season. During this time most accidents involve
large breeding males that are moving within the population and across
roads to secure mates. Does are involved in accidents during the spring
and summer while moving to and from their fawns and feeding sites.
Contrary to what most people believe, accidents occurring in the fall
are essentially independent of site-wide hunting activities. When
accidents occur is a function of the behavior of both deer and humans.
Where do accidents occur?
Accidents occur on all paved roads on the SRS. However, contrary to
popular belief, deer accident locations do not have a predictable
pattern in space. Even though accidents may occur more often on some
roads in certain years than in others, these patterns are not repeated
from one year to the next. The overall pattern of accident locations
does not vary greatly among seasons of the year. There is some suggestion
that the type of roadside vegetation and the location of creek bottoms
may lend some predictability to where accidents occur. Clustering
of accident locations does not occur in such a way that the number
of accidents could be reduced by the strategic placement of warning
Trends in number of employees, deer, and
Over the years the number of employees on the SRS and the time at
which they travel to and from work has changed. This has resulted
in different numbers of employees driving on site roads during periods
of maximum deer activity. The number of accidents is most likely related
to the amount of traffic at these critical times and the number of
deer in the population. The tendency for certain employees to work
longer days has increased the probability that they will be involved
in a deer-vehicle accident. The places where employees work on the
SRS also have shifted over the years, and this further complicates
the explanation for the patterns of deer-vehicle accidents.
Reduce your chances of having a deer-vehicle
- Slow down. Reduced speed will make
it more likely that you can avoid a collision with a deer. Most
accidents occur under optimal driving conditions on clear days and
- Stay alert. The hours before and
after sunrise and sunset are when most accidents occur. The months
of October and November are when most accidents occur
during the year, and these involve primarily large
- One deer often means more deer. Deer
frequently travel in groups, so when one deer crosses the road,
there may be others waiting to cross. Slow down after the first
crossing and watch for others to dash into the road. Deer are often
anxious to stay in their group and will feel compelled to rejoin
- Deer tend to occur in the same places over
time. If you see deer along the road, that should alert you
to the likelihood that there will be deer in that place in the future.
- Control the number of deer. There
is a need to continue public hunting or to institute some other
form of control on the SRS to keep the number of deer reduced. Both
bucks and does of all ages are involved in accidents.
- Harvest deer along paved roads. Deer
on the SRS tend to live most of their lives in a limited area called
their home range. Eliminating deer living right next to the road
should reduce the number of accidents along that road, because it
will take time for deer to reoccupy that area.
- Manage employee schedules to reduce traffic.
Ways should be sought to reduce the number of vehicles traveling
on the roads during periods of high deer activity.
Accidents on the SRS
to Research Snapshots)