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Drivers should watch for deer crossing the road

By Alyson Oüten

BOISE – As the temperature begins to warm, it’s a sign that winter is coming to an end. But it's also a sign that deer and elk will start heading for the hills again and many will be crossing state highways to get there.

"Right now as things are starting to warm up, primarily what we're seeing is new green growth, new green grass and that's really attracting deer along the highways," said Jon Rachael with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

For nature lovers this is a great time to see wildlife from the comfort of their own car, but Fish and Game says it's also a time to use extreme caution

A deer crosses the highway. Drivers are advised to use caution when heading into areas that are near the animals winter range.

"It can be a pretty dangerous situation. In Idaho it's great, we've got a lot of places where you can see wildlife from the road, but there are also dangers involved with that," said Rachael.

On the Banks to Lowman Road a sign illustrates the dangers with its flashing lights warning motorists of deer. In fact, from the road you can see more than two-dozen elk grazing just 50 yards off the road.

"We've done a lot of work, putting up signs to make drivers aware that there are deer and other wildlife on the highways and after awhile I think some of them become complacent they've been through the area and haven't hit one yet they just go a little faster and sometimes that's their unlucky day," said Rachael.

Rachael says one of the biggest trouble spots is along Warm Springs Avenue and Highway 21. Since September, he says, at least 119 deer have been fatally hit along an 18-mile stretch of the road.

Warning signs are posted along Warm Springs Avenue.

"It's way more than we'd like to see, but it's not nearly as bad as our worst years," said Rachael.

That was two years ago when at least 230 deer died along Highway 21. That's why the annual caution goes out to motorists.

"The most important thing is for drivers to slow down and be cautious particularly in the early morning hours and just before dark when the deer and elk are pretty darn hard to see," said Rachael.

If you do hit a deer, Fish and Game wants you to call their department and to let their officers handle the situation. They say trying to approach an injured animal will put you in even more danger ... especially if it's still in the middle of the road.