Deer are beautiful creatures, whether you see them as dinner or characters from a favorite movie. Seeing one in nature can take your breath away. Seeing one hit your car, and the bill for the damage it causes, can render you speechless as well.

"(They cause) an average of $500-$2,500 (in damages) depending on the location they hit and the type of vehicle," Capt. Roger Triplett, assistant operations officer
at Directorate of Emergency Services, said.

With the natural resources and varied wildlife on Redstone, it is inevitable that animals will cross roadways and populated areas from time to time. Because of their proximity to woodlands, some areas are more likely to see deer activity than others. Triplett said Patton Road, Martin Road, Rideout Road and the Dodd/Fowler Road area are the most frequent locations of deer and auto collisions.

Deer crossings are more prevalent during the early morning, evening or night hours when the naturally skittish creatures feel safer moving in the open. Unfortunately, these times also offer low visibility for drivers, making them the most common time for deer strikes. Weather doesn't seem to really be a factor, although fewer strikes happen in rainy and windy conditions.

The Alabama Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates 20,000 deer collisions happen statewide each year. Redstone averages 45 to 60 deer strikes each year, with fall and winter having the heaviest occurrences.

"Since September we have had 27," Triplett said. "This (calendar) year we've had 3 so far, but they really start moving around September."

There are quite a few gadgets on the market for drivers to help repel deer, although opinions on how well they work are mixed. Triplett said the best defenses drivers have are awareness and caution.

"Try to pay attention to the side of the road, especially in wooded areas," he said.

When a deer collision occurs, it is easy for sympathy for the creature to take over. Drivers must not let compassion obliterate personal safety, however.

"Do not approach the deer. Deer have very sharp hooves and can cause severe lacerations," Triplett said. "(Deer) have been known to cause death by causing a laceration to the neck area when the person bends over to look at or touch the deer."

He advocates contacting the Redstone 911 Center at 313-6422 for assistance. Police can also help with a police report, usually the first step toward recouping damages to a vehicle.

"Most insurance companies require it, but some do not," Triplett said. "People
need to check and ensure that a deer strike is covered under the comprehensive portion of their insurance."

Every year in the United States approximately 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions occur resulting in 29,000 human injuries, 200 human fatalities, 1.3 million deer fatalities, and $1 billion in property damage. According to State Farm Insurance, Alabama is rated at a medium risk and drivers have a 1/196 chance of a deer-vehicle collision.