As wonderful as it is to see deer while driving down the road, it isn’t so great when they are running in front of your vehicle, day or night. To help you avoid this, I want to educate you on the psychology of what is going on in a deer’s head.
Male deer are known as bucks, female deer are known as does, and baby deer are known as fawns. Normally any deer with spots (whether male or female) is called a fawn. Although this is incorrect, most people will call any deer without spots or antlers a doe. This is incorrect because young deer that lose their spots are not old enough yet to grow antlers. These bucks are allowed to remain in the family unit until they grow antlers and then the does will chase them away. Sometimes these young bucks will follow the does around since it is the only life that they have ever know, however by the following fall, these bucks will become solitary animals.
Mature bucks are solitary animals. They sometimes are together when young, but after 2-3 years they stick to themselves. Once they reach ages 3-4 their movements are basically at night and the older they get, the smaller their home range. They tend to stick to whatever makes them feel safe. As humans encroach them, they feel less and less safe and that is why their home range seems to get smaller and smaller every year.
Does, on the other hand, are very family oriented. They are social creatures that enjoy being close together. In the spring the does go off by themselves and the fawns are born. Two fawns are the usual. Until these fawns become steady on their feet, the does hide the fawns in the grass as they go off to eat, coming back occasionally to nurse them. The young fawns stick close to their mom. After the fawns become steady on their feet and are able to run, the does take their fawns to all of the places that they normally go to eat and sleep. Places where they feel safe so that their fawns are safe. And in their travels, they may encounter other does and fawns. Sometimes these meetings become permanent and they travel together in a sort of extended family. Food is somewhat limited in the spring, so the deer may need to travel more in order to have enough to eat. After all, the does are eating for themselves and their fawns
Fawns are very inquisitive and are exploring the world for the first time (not knowing what is dangerous and what is not). As these families roam from place to place across streets and roads, they sometimes get separated. When this happens, panic can set in and all they know is that they want to be together with their family. They do not know that it is dangerous. They think that safety is in being together, that is why they run across the road as fast as they can. So, springtime is one of those times when you should be looking for them and when you see one, there is probably more of them close by.
By summer the food is more plentiful, and the families travel less to fill their needs. Deer still get out on the road but usually late at night when there is less traffic. If you happen to be driving late at night through first light, then you should remain watchful.
Fall is when you can expect to encounter a deer on the road. Bucks are going into rut (their breeding time) and does are as well. The bucks are ready before the does and they are coming out more searching for does that are receptive. Once the does go into estrus (their breeding phase) they chase their fawns away and any of their extended family to mate. Many of these fawns and other does have never been on their own before and without the guidance of the older does may go places that they have never gone before trying to figure out where their place is in life. So, fall is especially dangerous. You have bucks coming out of the woodwork looking for does, the does are looking for bucks, and the extended family are running around all over the place not knowing where to go. Now if that isn’t enough, think about this…
The farmers are taking off the crops. Deer use these crops for cover to move and sleep. The does have chased the young inexperienced deer off on their own in an environment that is changing. That place they used to hide and run and sleep in is now a wide-open field, that’s a lot for a 6 month old baby to take in.
This is coupled with the fact that it is hunting season now. There are all kinds of hunters chasing the deer out of the woods too.
We are all living creatures on this earth. Each life is precious and we all intermingle as passengers on this planet. It is the circle of life. I know that when the deer are out and it is scary that they are in the road, but they only want safety (as you do) and they are only trying to fulfill their needs. They aren’t out working to build a business or buy a home, they just want to survive.
Be watchful in the spring and especially the fall. I look for them all the time. They are truly beautiful animals. Enjoy them and take care…