If you are a deer, it all kicks off at this time of the year.
Autumn is the ‘rutting’ season - when lusty stags go off a-wandering for some female companionship and younger males are unceremoniously ousted with a clash of antlers and sent on their way by the more dominant males.
All of this action among the deer population is bad news for motorists, particularly in a rural county like Mayo where the number of deer and car collisions is a growing concern for National Parks and Wildlife staff and the county’s road safety officer Noel Gibbons.
This week the national parks body and the Mayo road safety office joined forces to launch their new DeerAware Campaign.
Denis Strong is the deputy regional manager of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, based in Ballycroy.
He said the deer population is growing, as is the number of other road users, and motorists need to be more deer aware.
“As days get shorter in the autumn, busy traffic times coincide with dawn and the early part of the night when deer are most active and hardest to spot. In wooded areas in particular, there may be very little warning before one or several deer bolt across,” he warned.
A mature red deer stag can weigh up to 160kg and hinds (or females ) will be about 30 per cent lighter.
“Even at low speed they can cause considerable damage to a vehicle and potentially cause life-threatening injuries to the driver and their passengers,” warned Mr Strong.
Damien Hannigan of the Wild Deer Association of Ireland had some advice for motorists.
“Reduce speed where you see a warning sign and stay alert. Prepare to stop and never swerve as you could hit another obstacle or oncoming vehicle. When you see a deer, dip your headlights,” he advised.
“If a deer has crossed in front of your vehicle, be aware that others may follow. Do not approach an injured deer. If you are involved in a deer road traffic accident or come across a deer that has been involved in a road traffic accident, immediately contact the local gardaí.”
Road safety officer Mr Gibbons said preventative measures, such as increased signage, is being provided at “collision hotspots”.
However, he urged drivers to be more deer aware.
“We really need drivers to slow down, take extra care, and watch out for these animals - especially at this time of year.”