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Drivers urged to use caution as deer activity increases
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Motorists traveling Dawson County roads should keep a keen eye out for deer as the season changes, especially the week of Nov. 17-23.

Fall is prime mating season for deer across Georgia, and it's also when drivers are more likely to hit a deer, according to a study conducted by the University of Georgia.

Researchers recently completed a county-by-county analysis of deer activity by comparing breeding data to deer versus vehicle collision statistics across the state.

These collisions increase during the "rutting season," because white-tail deer move around a lot more looking for mates, according to James Stickles, lead researcher on the project.

"Now we can warn drivers in a more relevant timeframe than in the past," he said.

The study shows 45,811 reported deer-vehicle collisions between 2005 and 2012 across all Georgia counties.

"Depending on your location in Georgia, peak rut may occur anywhere from October to December," he Stickles said. "By knowing deer movement dates in specific areas, email blasts and other warnings to be more vigilant of deer can be distributed before, and during, times when deer-vehicle collisions are most likely to occur."

Dawson County, alone, had 40 between the Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 last year, according to the Dawson County Sheriff's Office.

"The next few months are the time, for the most part, that deer will be active trying to mate, so it is the season for more activity from bucks and that's the time of the year that they cause more accidents," said sheriff's Capt. Tony Wooten.

Bob Warren, a professor with UGA's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources that worked on the study, said drivers are most likely to see deer from dusk through dawn.

"Any motorist driving at night needs to be especially cautious because deer will be more active during nighttime periods," he said. "This is why more deer-vehicle collisions occur early in the morning or late in the evening, because that's when deer and motorists are both most active."

He also urged drivers to use caution.

"Deer are rarely alone. If a motorist sees one deer, look for a second one," he said. "In many instances, it's the second deer that crosses the road that gets hit."