County, state see increase in vehicle-deer collisions

Deer-vehicle collisions have skyrocketed in Massachusetts, including Franklin County, over the past decade, and local body shop technicians said they are bracing for an increase in incidents as autumn progresses.

Deer-vehicle collisions have skyrocketed in Massachusetts, including Franklin County, over the past decade, and local body shop technicians said they are bracing for an increase in incidents as autumn progresses. FILE PHOTO

Deer-vehicle collisions have skyrocketed in Massachusetts, including Franklin County, over the past decade, and local body shop technicians said they are bracing for an increase in incidents as autumn progresses.

Deer-vehicle collisions have skyrocketed in Massachusetts, including Franklin County, over the past decade, and local body shop technicians said they are bracing for an increase in incidents as autumn progresses. FILE PHOTO

Deer-vehicle collisions have skyrocketed in Massachusetts, including Franklin County, over the past decade, and local body shop technicians said they are bracing for an increase in incidents as autumn progresses.

Deer-vehicle collisions have skyrocketed in Massachusetts, including Franklin County, over the past decade, and local body shop technicians said they are bracing for an increase in incidents as autumn progresses. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Deer-vehicle collisions have skyrocketed in Massachusetts, including Franklin County, over the past decade, and local body shop technicians said they are bracing for an increase in incidents as autumn progresses.

Deer-vehicle collisions have skyrocketed in Massachusetts, including Franklin County, over the past decade, and local body shop technicians said they are bracing for an increase in incidents as autumn progresses. STAFF FILE PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Deer-vehicle collisions have skyrocketed in Massachusetts, including Franklin County, over the past decade, and local body shop technicians said they are bracing for an increase in incidents as autumn progresses.

Deer-vehicle collisions have skyrocketed in Massachusetts, including Franklin County, over the past decade, and local body shop technicians said they are bracing for an increase in incidents as autumn progresses. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 11-01-2023 5:22 PM

If you’re driving around in the next few months and see a literal deer in the highlights, know that you’re not alone.

Deer-vehicle collisions have skyrocketed in Massachusetts over the past decade, and Franklin County is no exception. Its long, winding roads combined with the rural setting are the perfect recipe for accidents, especially during this time of year.

There were twice as many reported deer crashes in Franklin County in 2022 as in 2013, and local body shop technicians said they are bracing for an increase in incidents as autumn progresses.

“I would imagine in the next few weeks we’re going to get hit with a bunch more,” said Steve Moore, manager of Bob Cartelli’s The Body Shop in Greenfield.

He said there were many deer-vehicle collisions during the spring and at least two or three the week of Oct. 23

“[Deer are] starting to come back out, with the weather being as weird as it is,” Moore said.

According to information from Mark Schieldrop, AAA Northeast’s senior spokesperson, 15 deer crashes have been reported in Greenfield heading into this year’s rut, or mating season. Most of these types of accidents occur during this time period, because the animals are traveling more and often not paying attention to hazards in the road. The city has seen 137 deer crashes since 2013.

So far this year, Deerfield tops the list, with 13 such accidents, according to data from AAA Northeast. The town saw 23 last year and has had 161 reported since 2013. Whately, last year’s runner-up, has had four so far in 2023. That town had 12 in 2022 and has seen 59 over the past 11 years.

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Countywide, there have been 80 deer crashes this year and 1,090 since 2013. Across the state last year, the number was 1,806 between October and December. That’s the highest on record since at least 2002 and the equivalent to one deer crash every 74 minutes, according to AAA Northeast.

“Deer crashes can occur quickly and in unexpected locations,” Schieldrop said. “Drivers need to be especially vigilant this time of year.”

Kevin LaBelle, owner of Kevin’s Auto Body & Sales in Greenfield, said his small business fixes between one and 10 vehicles each year that were involved in collisions with deer. He said no such repairs have come through the garage doors this year, but he believes that will soon change.

“There’s no real rhyme or reason,” he said. “They’ll start coming around Thanksgiving. Deer hunters chase them out of the woods.”

LaBelle said that in his experience, vehicles that strike a deer typically need repairs to the headlights, fenders and radiators. He advises that anyone who hits a deer should call their insurance company as soon as possible.

Ben Sirum, who has owned Leon L. Sirum & Co. in Greenfield for about two years, said the family business doesn’t handle a lot of collision repairs, but at least half of the roughly 10 wildlife cases he sees each year are the result of vehicles hitting deer.

“It’s pretty much the same as any other damage or any other hit,” he said. “It’s not different damage. Damage is damage.”

Sirum said any motorist who notices they are about to strike a deer on a roadway should avoid swerving out of the lane. That, he said, is far more dangerous because their vehicle could hit a person or strike another vehicle.

Moore, at Bob Cartelli’s The Body Shop, said necessary repair work varies case by case. It all depends on the size of the vehicle, the speed it was traveling, the size of the deer and where it made contact with the vehicle. He said it is not uncommon to have to fix headlights, hoods, fenders, doors and radiators.

“Deer do a lot of damage,” he said.

Jim Wickline, a technician at Cartelli’s, said he regularly sees deer chowing down on corn stalks as soon as the vegetable is harvested. The Heath resident expects to see a lot more vehicle repair jobs resulting from deer crashes in the coming months.

“Some of them are not pleasant to work on,” he said. “You’ll get hair and meat, blood ... on [the vehicles]. They can do some damage.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.