Dr. Dennis Mallory, chair of the Tama County Board of Health, urged "increased vigilance and reduced speed to avoid a crash" in a recent email concerning deer on highways.
"In the past few days, more and more reports of deer sightings suggests that a very real danger exists at this time of year," he wrote. During mating season, which is this time of year, deer are known to be much more mobile.
His warning is borne out in a stack of Tama County Sheriff's Office reports totaling 30 vehicle-deer collisions in the county which have occurred since Oct. 15.
A sign warns motorists of deer along a stretch of U.S. Highway 30 beginning about six miles east of Tama. There have been 30 reported vehicle-deer collisions in Tama County since Oct. 15.
In November, only one of these resulted in injury: 20-year-old Shaun Christopher McClintock of Marion was airlifted to University Hospitals in Iowa City after he went into the ditch to avoid two deer in the roadway on U.S. 30 east of the Chelsea- Vining corner on Nov. 10 at 3:35 a.m. He is reported to have since recovered.
His vehicle was a total loss.
In November alone, there has been an estimated $57,000 property damage to vehicles as a result of the crashes in Tama County.
The Sheriff's Office notes not all deer accidents are reported.
While a recent published report in The Iowa City Press-Citizen said "Car-deer collisions at nearly 25-year lows" an Iowa Department of Natural Resources data shows they were up in 2011 over the previous year.
The DNR report said, in part, "The number of deer killed on rural highways increased by about 5 percent in 2011. The estimated number of vehicle miles driven also increased in 2011 when compared to 2010 so the adjusted road kill (kills per billion miles KBM) increased by 4 percent overall."
The DNR report does state "The trend in road kills (KBM) has been a declining one as the deer population decreases, but the relationship between these two variables has never been directly linear."
It also suggest the deer population is being controlled through hunting. (See Letter to the Editor: Page 4)
Ask if "deer whistles" work on an internet search engine and you get 28 million-plus results alternatedly proclaiming their virtues and worthlessness.
The devices are affixed to the front of vehicles and are supposed to produce a high-pitched tone to scare away deer as you travel down the roadway.
After being mounted on Iowa State Patrol cars some years ago, now-retired State trooper Jerry Jones, Tama, can be remembered saying then ,"They must work, I never hit a deer."
Whatever the case, perhaps Dr. Mallory's advice is best- be alert and slow down.