Watch out for deer on the roads, biologist warns

whitetailed deer A wildlife biologist with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources says this winter’s heavy snow encourages deer to venture onto highways where it’s easier for them to travel.

Mark Pulsifer is warning motorists to be extra careful when they see deer on the road because the animals can be unpredictable.

“During a recent helicopter survey for deer in Guysborough County, four deer were seen running down along a secondary road with the five foot snowbanks encouraging them to stay on the road, it seemed,” he said in an e-mail on Friday.

“They will of course travel the path of least resistance and if they discover open asphalt it must provide them some relief from pushing through deep snow,” he added.

“Deer can get spooked on a road easily and may turn suddenly and bound over the snow bank or across the road. So there are risks. Drivers should take caution if deer are seen on a road.”

Pulsifer’s warning about the unpredictability of deer on highways was illustrated on Thursday during an incident that happened to my spouse, Laura Landon as she drove on the Trans-Canada highway across the Tantramar marshes to her librarian’s job at Mount Allison University in Sackville.

“Tense moment on the Trans-Canada: the van ahead of me slowed right down and I wondered why, and I saw a huge deer galloping on the shoulder alongside the van,” she said in an e-mail message.

“I slowed to abouty 20 kmh and put my 4-way flashers on, and all the cars behind slowed down too (they were quite far back, thankfully).

“The deer zig-zagged across our two lanes a few times, and kept running alongside the van. I hoped it would run into the marshes when it could, but instead it freaked us all out and bolted across the highway, across the median and onto the OTHER two lanes of traffic, who had no idea it was coming. The deer did make it across, miraculously.”

Mark Pulsifer of DNR warns that drivers may encounter more deer on roads now that it’s spring.

“Once warmer weather does arrive, the roadways tend to lose the snow first, due to the warmth of the pavement, and then grass along the roads will begin to show, so more deer may be drawn to the roadways at that time to nibble grass.”

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