Evans resident Christina McKelvain says she never saw it coming.
On Oct. 2, at about 8:30 a.m., her Jeep Grand Cherokee collided with a deer on Furys Ferry Road near the Oakbrook subdivision. She says she was paying attention, driving safely, but the deer must have been obscured by a tractor-trailer traveling next to her when it leaped into the path of her vehicle.
"I never saw him," she said. "I didn't know what I had hit until I saw him sliding down on the road behind me."
County officials say such collisions are on the rise in Columbia County compared to this time last year.
As of Oct. 3, Columbia County Animal Care and Control officials had collected 256 deer killed in collisions with automobiles, up from 230 from the same date last year.
Motorists are most at-risk for hitting deer in the months of October, November and December. There are several reasons, animal control Director Linda Fulmer said. During those months, deer are on the move because of hunting season, loss of food and mating season.
These factors are compounded in parts of Columbia County because of the encroachment of development on natural deer habitats, Fulmer said.
Typically, wrecks involving deer nearly triple during these months.
During the course of the first nine months of the year, deer collisions typically occur 20 to 30 times per month. Last year, collisions spiked to 53 in October and peaked at 68 in November before dropping to 52 in December.
Fulmer said her department estimates that this year's total will easily surpass last year's mark of 403 if motorists do not take caution. Deer are active from sunset to about midnight and again in the hours immediately before and after dawn.
She recommended motorists use high-beam headlights when no oncoming traffic is present, slow down and be aware that deer usually do not roam alone.
According to statistics provided by the county from the National Safety Council, 530,000 animal-related accidents occurred in 2003, resulting in 100 deaths and 10,000 injuries.
McKelvain said she and her 2-year-old daughter were not injured, but their sport utility vehicle was totalled.
"We've lived in Evans for about three years, and this was the first time we've had an incident with deer," McKelvain said.
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