CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - Early December is the tail end of mating season for deer in the Tennessee Valley. It's a period when male bucks seek out female does for "romance". The chase often leads bucks out of their normal one square mile "home range", and very often where there is one buck approaching the road others are following.
"This time of year they do branch out from that and you'll see them crossing the roads in an attempt to breed other does," said Nick Luper, a Hamilton County Wildlife officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.
According to Luper, there were around 5,000 traffic incidents in the Volunteer State in 2009 involving deer.
This is part of an increasing trend of eight percent over the past few years. Luper attributes the rise in collisions to an increase in deer population. The growing number of deer, Luper said, is a result of laws allowing for more deer to be harvested.
Suzie Bowling of Chattanooga was driving through Lookout Mountain a couple weeks ago when the side of her SUV was struck suddenly by a deer charging from the side of the road.
While she wasn't hurt, there is temporary damage to her vehicle and a permanent image left in her memory.
"It's very frightening...I'm very cautious. I'm looking for deer every night on my way home," said Bowling.
Although she will suffer some out of pocket expense from paying her deductible toward the nearly $1,000 of damage, Kerry Smith, a State Farm agent in Red Bank said the first line of defense regarding run-ins with deer is to have comprehensive insurance coverage, not just collision coverage.
"Collision is if you run into a stationary object or another vehicle," explained Smith. "So comprehensive [covers] the things that are out of your control."
According to State Farm's latest calculations, the chance of a motorist being hit by a deer in Tennessee while driving is around one in 218.
Besides being alert, officer Luper said be extra cautious of deer around and just after dusk. If you suddenly see one out of the corner of your eye while driving, try not to panic.
"Immediately slow down. Never swerve. You might swerve into oncoming traffic or swerve off the road," explained Luper. "[There's] a better chance of not hitting the deer than there is of swerving off the road."