While drivers are reminded this time of year to slow down for trick-or-treaters, it's also a deadly season for deer as more of them dart into the paths of oncoming cars and trucks.
Last year, Stark County led the state in deer-vehicle crashes with 559 collisions, according to the Ohio Insurance Institute.
Deer-involved crashes across the state were down 7.5 percent from 2011 to 2012, but six people died from such crashes and 1,013 were injured in 2012, according to the institute figures. That was underscored in Tuscarawas County last week when a Cleveland-area driver died after investigators said he swerved to avoid a deer on Interstate 77 just south of New Philadelphia.
Troopers with the Ohio Highway Patrol's Canton post have responded to 181 deer-involved crashes so far this year, Sgt. Leo Shirkey said late last week.
No one part of Stark County is more hazardous than others, according to Shirkey.
For example, there were two crashes Thursday morning, Shirkey said. One occurred off state Route 21 at Arcadia Street NW in Lawrence Township and the other at state Route 183 in the Alliance area.
One of the reasons for the increase in crashes: Deer are more active this time of year.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources web page at dnr.state.oh.us states that "Courtship activities among Ohio's white-tailed deer begin in mid-October," and run through mid-January with the "peak breeding activity" taking place in early to mid-November.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
The damage to vehicles can be heavy. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources' website said most deer weigh up to 300 pounds.
"More often than not, the cars are driveable after they strike a deer. A lot of times, people will go home and call us to report that they struck a deer," Shirkey said.
In many cases, the injured deer runs off but not all.
In Ohio, law enforcement and state wildlife officers may issue deer possession receipts to someone who has struck and killed a deer.
Shirkey said the animal may then be taken to a butcher and processed.
Troopers occasionally need to put down a wounded deer with a handgun. Then they call the Ohio Department of Transportation.
ODOT crews will push badly decomposed deer off the side of the road, said Brent Kovacs of the DOT's district headquarters in Akron. The carcasses of other deer that have been killed are moved out of the sight of motorists, but remain on the ODOT right-of-way.
HELPING INJURED DEER
The Sanders Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, which rehabilitates native Ohio wildlife, doesn't typically receive calls after a deer survives a car crash.
The center receives about a dozen or more calls each year from people with deer-related issues, said Gail Gollbach, administrative assistant for the center.
Page 2 of 2 - But there is little the agency can do.
Gollbach cited a January 2009 letter from the state saying that rehabilitation permits would no longer be issued for deer as the state's effort to address a communicable chronic wasting disease in the deer population.
The disease doesn't affect humans, but it is "a progressive, fatal, degenerative disease of the brain" for deer, according to the DNR website.
Gollbach said most calls to the Sanders center come from people finding a baby deer in a field or their yard where the deer's mother has placed it temporarily while she goes off to feed. "It will stay right where she puts it and she will come back and nurse it."
If a deer's mother is killed on the highway and the baby returns to it, wildlife experts hope another mother will come along and adopt it. Otherwise, a game warden will be called to put it down, Gollbach said.
Motorist tips for deer season:
• If you see one, more can be expected to follow. Slow down and watch out.
• Use high beam vehicle lights when there is no opposing traffic.
• If a collision seems impossible to avoid, "then hit it while maintaining full control of your vehicle. Don't swerve your vehicle to avoid striking a deer. Brake firmly and stay in your lane. The alternative could be even worse," according to the Ohio Insurance Institute.
Ohio Insurance Institute, www.ohioinsurance.org