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It's that time of year -- slow down and watch for deer

It's the time of the year when motorists need to keep a sharp eye out for deer on the roadways.

Motorcyclists need to be especially careful, since they bear the brunt of fatalities and serious injuries when it comes to deer collisions.

Motorcyclists accounted for 16 of the 18 deer-vehicle crash fatalities in the last three years in Minnesota.

Here's some advice for all motorists from the experts at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and Department of Natural Resources.

Some are simple, common-sense suggestions. Others will give you a better of idea of which situations -- a farmer harvesting a corn field, for example -- could produce a car-deer collision.

• Drive at safe speeds and be prepared and alert for deer.

• Don't swerve to avoid a deer, this can cause you to lose control and travel off the road or into oncoming traffic. The best defense is to buckle up and brake.

• Don't count on deer whistles or deer fences to deter deer from crossing roads in front of you. Stay alert.

• Watch for the reflection of deer eyes and for deer silhouettes on the shoulder of the road. If anything looks slightly suspicious, slow down.

• Slow down in areas known to have a large deer population; where deer-crossing signs are posted; places where deer commonly cross roads; areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forest land; and whenever in forested areas between dusk and dawn.

• Deer do unpredictable things. Sometimes they stop in the middle of the road when crossing. Sometimes they cross and quickly re-cross back from where they came; sometimes they move toward an approaching vehicle. Assume nothing. Slow down; blow your horn to urge the deer to leave the road. Stop if the deer stays on the road; don't try to go around it.

• Slow down whenever farmers are harvesting cornfields because deer are often flushed from fields as farm equipment approaches them.

• Any Minnesota resident may claim a road-killed animal by contacting a law enforcement officer. An authorization permit will be issued allowing the individual to lawfully possess the deer.

Being knowledgeable about deer activities can also help you stay out of harm's way, especially during the rut, or fall breeding season.

During the rut, deer are more active than usual as they become preoccupied with mating. Summer's fawns can also make their ways onto roadways after their mothers leave them to mate.

If a deer is struck by a vehicle, but not killed, drivers are urged to keep their distance because some deer may recover and move on.

However, if a deer does not move on, or poses a public safety risk, drivers are encouraged to report the incident to a DNR conservation officer or other local law enforcement agency.

Slow down, watch for trouble, and be careful out there.