With the Irish deer population at high levels, drivers are urged to be extra vigilant on the roads, especially rural and semi-rural roads, this autumn.

Mayo County Council is warning that at this time of year, the male fallow deer is “unpredictable and can travel several miles a day in search of a mate, crossing roads in the process”.

The most common times for the male deer to roam are at dawn and dusk, which in October coincides with the morning and evening rush-hours, the council said.

Deer being ‘bolder’ on rural roads

Drivers should beware of deer causing fatal accidents by bolting across roads, Noel Gibbons, road safety officer with Mayo County Council said.

“With fewer cars on the roads over the last few months because of Covid-19, we’ve seen all sorts of wildlife being bolder, and deer are no exception,” Gibbons said.

“We would urge motorists to be cautious and drive a little slower at this time of the year, especially on rural and semi-rural roads.”

Gibbons warned that female deer “fleeing across roads from stags during mating season can increase the risk of dangerous collisions”.

All of the action is “bad news for motorists”, particularly in rural counties where the number of deer and car collisions “is a growing concern for road users”.

In Ireland, the latest figures show there are around 400 to 500 collisions between motorists and deer each year, resulting in human injury.

“At 100kph, hitting a deer is serious – not just for the animal but car occupants as well,” Gibbons continued.

“A natural reaction is to try to avoid the collision but, as a result, drivers may miss the deer and hit other vehicles or trees which could be even worse.”

Speed a major factor

Deer usually always cross roads in wooded areas as they use the trees for cover, Gibbons explained. If you are entering a wooded area at night, you are advised to slow down and be prepared.

“If one jumps out it is highly likely others will follow so take that into account,” he added.

“Speed is a major factor in people being injured and the animals killed so ask – is it necessary to travel at excessive speed on these types of road?

“Speed limits are exactly that and are not targets. Motorists who exceed the speed limit significantly increase their chances of being involved in a serious, or even fatal, collision.”

People are advised to report any deer and vehicle collisions to An Garda Síochána, who will contact the local person who can best help with an injured deer at the roadside. Do not approach an injured deer yourself – it may be dangerous, Gibbons concluded.