Watching Out for Wildlife

Watching Out for Wildlife

One afternoon “Ralph” came over the bridge to Fire Island on the way to the Coast Guard Station. As he drove, circled the round-a-bout to go east, he noticed something to his right. Out of nowhere there was a small, sudden movement at the side of the road. Startled by the sound of the motorcycle and almost hidden by the brush, a large doe looked right up at him. Behind her were two smaller deer that also stopped in their tracks. He immediately slowed down to a crawl and changed lanes to pass, hands covering the clutch and brake to possibly come to a stop. Although Ralph’s encounter was in the afternoon, deer most often venture out in the early morning hours and in the evening.

With a statewide deer population of approximately 900,000, there are an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 deer-vehicle collisions that occur throughout New York State each year. The likelihood of colliding with a large animal more than doubles during the months of October, November and December, during deer mating season. Whether you hit a large animal, or it jumps into the side of your vehicle, such collisions can cause significant injuries and property damage. No matter where you live, it’s important to keep your eyes up and focus on the road, helping you take action in the event a large animal is suddenly in your path. Additional tips to avoid deer collisions during your cruise include:

  • Slowing down, particularly at dusk and dawn
  • Hand on the brakes to reduce reaction time
  • Stagger riders when in a group
  • If you see one deer, be prepared for more deer to cross the road
  • Pay attention to deer crossing signs
  • Use your high beams to see farther, except when there is oncoming traffic
  • Brake if you can, but avoid swerving, which could result in a more severe crash
  • Remain focused on the road, scanning for hazards, including animals
  • Avoid distractions which might cause you to miss seeing an animal
  • Always wear protective gear and keep focus on the road ahead


Blowing your horn and blinking lights when seeing deer may help but don’t rely on this method. Deer whistles marketed to scare away deer report some success and many also claim to repel moose and badger. Even a wild turkey coming at you while riding can cause a crash. Some of these whistles are ultrasonic, but one that is audible, the Deer Screamer, is being used by the New Jersey State Police and the police in Colorado and Iowa, who say it helps lower their wildlife collision rate.  It’s made in the US and is small enough to mount on any bike. It doesn’t work until you are at about 40 mph, but at less than $10 it seems like good insurance to possibly prevent an unwanted encounter with a deer.


Don’t let down your guard. All motorcyclists should be engaged, alert and on the lookout at all times, because you never know when you may need to react to a deer, or any other obstacle that may suddenly be in your path.

Ride Safe!

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