It is a club whose membership seems to be increasing on an almost daily basis. Yet it is a club no one really wants to join.
Recent accident reports from the Sedalia Police Department, Pettis County Sheriff’s Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol seem to indicate a growing number of drivers are facing collisions with deer.
As beautiful as the animals might be they can cause significant damage to vehicles.
“Some of the front-end body parts that we see damaged from a head-on deer collision include parts such as the hood, fenders, headlamp assemblies, grille, and windshield, depending on the speed at which they hit the deer,” said Katie Brown, who owns Hassler’s Repair Shop in Smithton with her husband, Justin Brown. “Some of the mechanical parts the impact can damage are the air conditioning condenser and a/c lines, oil coolers, and radiators, which are all located right behind the grille. If the impact is severe enough a lot of the brackets that hold these parts on will bend under the pressure, making replacement parts difficult to install.”
The obvious signs of body damage from a deer collision may lead some to overlook the underlying mechanical damage that may be created, the couple explained.
Mechanical problems can occur after a front-end deer impact including damage to the air conditioning condenser causing the refrigerant that keeps the air conditioning operating to leak out and need to be replaced and recharged. The radiator damage can leak coolant and cause the vehicle to overheat ending in possible engine damage. Transmission and engine oil coolers have the risk of leaking fluids and causing damage as well.
The monetary repercussions of collision can range in cost from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
The Missouri Department of Conservation reports it does not keep records regarding the number of vehicle accidents involving deer.
“We don’t have any population counts of deer numbers within the county or the city,” Conservation Media Specialist Bill Graham explained. “We also do not receive or track reports regarding deer-vehicle accidents. People generally report those to their local law enforcement agency or their insurance company.
“I will tell you that wildlife populations, including for white-tailed deer, vary from neighborhood to neighborhood depending on habitat such as food and shelter,” Graham continued. “One neighborhood might have several deer and another none. Disease and predation sometimes plays a role in population dynamics. Populations can vary from year to year.”
Graham urged drivers in areas with deer to be alert for them along roadsides, especially in the dusk, night, and dawn hours. Slowing down in areas with deer populations helps.
Graham added it is best to stop or slow down if possible to allow the deer to pass if the deer dart across the road.
If a driver’s car does come in contact with a deer, they should notify local public safety officials.
“Deer generally pose no threat to private property,” Graham said. “Most people enjoy seeing deer. If deer do cause any damage, contact your local conservation agent.”
Katie Brown explained the age of the vehicle as well as insurance coverage makes a difference in how customers manage repairs.
“We mostly see vehicles with a little more age on them than the dealership does and many customers are avoiding making an insurance claim to prevent a policy increase, or don't carry comprehensive collision insurance and need to repair out of pocket,” Brown said. “These customers are usually looking to piece things back together with as little impact to their wallets as possible. A newer vehicle that has less options for aftermarket replacement parts can really add up and depending on the year make and model can even be considered a total loss.
“Here in Smithton, with our customers' more rural location, hitting a deer almost seems to be a rite of passage for most drivers,” she commented with a knowing smile. “I've been driving for 25 years and just hit my first this year! It's like a club no one wants to join because the club fee is too high...”