The nugget. (Sisters, Or.) 1994-current, October 10, 2018, Page 20, Image 20

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018 The Nugget Newspaper, Sisters, Oregon
Be alert for deer on the highway
By Jim Anderson
Motorists in Sisters
Country need to be alert for
deer on the roadways. This
is the season when deer and
elk are on the move, and that
increases the possibility of
collisions that don’t end well
for anybody.
According to Oregon
Department of Fish
and Wildlife (ODFW),
“Overwinter fawn survival
was high, so we expect to
see a good number of year-
ling bucks this fall. However,
there was little snowpack and
moisture this year, resulting
in dryer than normal con-
ditions throughout the dis-
tricts. Hunter harvest of deer
last fall was about average
throughout the districts, how-
ever, deer populations con-
tinue to be lower than man-
agement objectives due to
habitat loss and disturbance,
poaching, predation, disease
and road kill.”
Wildlife Biologist Sara
Gregory of ODFW was asked
to bring attention to the big
game migration dangers on
the highway.
“Typically mule deer must
cross at least one highway,
twice each year as part of
their migration between win-
ter and summer ranges,” she
said. “Before modern human
settlement, the primary chal-
lenge migrating deer faced
was avoiding predators, such
as cougars and bears, on their
cross-country journeys. In
the last 100 years, humans
have created another set of
obstacles to deer movement.
We have built roads and fast-
moving cars that, accord-
ing to ODFW studies, kill
at least one deer each day.
Neighborhoods and other
developments have compro-
mised habitat and increased
deer encounters with domes-
tic dogs, fences, and other
seemingly innocuous objects
such as tomato cages and
hammocks that can have fatal
consequences. These factors
are among many contributing
to a decline in deer popula-
tions over the last 20-plus
Oregon Department of
Transportation (ODOT) has
posted warning signs where
frequent deer crossings occur.
One of the areas where
deer and motor vehicle col-
lisions happen regularly in
Sisters Country — and espe-
cially during the deer migra-
tion season — is just south
of Highway 20 and Fryrear
Road, between Mileposts 7
and 8. Mule deer have been
moving through that area
long before the highway was
built. The lay of the land, the
numbers of trees and plant
cover, the direction of the
wind, the food for mule deer
to eat and other factors favor-
ing deer is such that that route
to the winter range is perfect.
Now there are hay farms
on the east side of the high-
way to make the route even
more attractive to mule deer.
That stretch of highway —
actually all the way from
Fryrear to Bend — is deadly
for deer thinking about food,
the coming snow, cold and
cougar. They continue to
travel their ancestral trails
and will probably never learn
to look both ways before
stepping out on the roadway.
Today, passenger cars
traveling to and from Sisters
on that stretch of road do so at
65 mph normally, but it isn’t
uncommon to be passed by a
vehicle exceeding 75 mph.
Lt. Mike Biondi of the
Deschutes County Sheriff’s
Office has the following sug-
gestions for motorists:
• Slow down. In today’s
traffic that may seem like
an impossible suggestion; it
appears drivers won’t slow
down for anything. But when
you consider how fast and
how much ground you cover
while driving at 65 miles per
hour it makes all the sense in
the world. Just about the time
you see a deer ahead of you,
you’re already there.
• When you see an ODOT
deer crossing sign ahead of
you at night, lift your foot off
the accelerator pedal, and if
there are no vehicles oncom-
ing, flip your headlight into
the high beam mode. (If there
is another vehicle coming
toward you, drop the head-
lights to low beam and stay
alert.) Pay attention to both
highway shoulders; deer and
elk usually do not advertise
their intentions.
• Be aware that most deer
activity occurs in the hours
just after sunrise and shortly
before sunset.
Both ODFW and ODOT
warn that we won’t always
see a deer or elk’s eyes
reflecting light back at driv-
ers, so don’t relax after one or
two cross the road. Deer and
elk often travel with others of
their kind this time of year,
and a doe could still have a
fawn or two traveling with
her, just out of sight.
Sometimes a deer or elk
will cross the road ahead of
you, then for some unknown
reason, stop and turn around
and run back across in front
of you. If you see a deer or
an elk on the shoulder, expect
anything to happen, start
slowing down, and be pre-
pared to stop quickly.
Stay in your lane.
Swerving to avoid a deer or
elk could cause you crash into
someone head-on, or side-
swipe another vehicle.
There are hundreds more
vehicles on the road today
than during earlier deer
migration seasons, and it
seems everyone is in a big
hurry to get somewhere.
Wildlife trying to cross a
busy highway are seem-
ingly oblivious to this traffic
interrupting their need to be
somewhere else. A serious
accident could occur — in
which the deer or elk will be
killed, your vehicle damaged,
and the occupants could be
potentially injured or even
killed. In the final analysis it
is the driver’s responsibility
to avoid trouble.
Sisters is full of deer, and that can make for potential danger on the
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