Why are there so many dead deer on Wisconsin roads?

Credit: Smart Toyota

By Christina Lorey

April 11, 2024

Are you seeing an alarming amount of dead deer piling up on the side of highways right now? You’re not alone.

The last time I took I-39/90 from Madison to the Illinois state line, I counted eight. And “deer crash” season is just starting.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, deer crashes typically spike in May and June as does (female deer, like the song says) are looking for places to give birth and young deer separate from their mothers.

“Deer become more active at the same time as people do,” Wisconsin Transportation Safety Director David Pabst said. “When you start heading out for spring and summer travel, expect to see deer trying to cross highways.”

Pabst warns these often-young deer can be unpredictable, so be even more alert than usual.

Last year, there were more than 16,000 crashes involving deer in Wisconsin. While “only” five people were killed, more than 500 were hurt and thousands resulted in significant car damage.

How to Avoid Hitting a Deer

Put your headlights on earlier than normal, or keep them on longer. Most deer crashes happen in the early morning and evening hours.

If you see one deer, assume there are more. Most aren’t alone, so scan the road carefully and honk your horn to scare away other animals.

Slow down, eliminate distractions, and make sure everyone is buckled. Crash injuries are less severe when everyone is wearing a seatbelt.

If You Can’t Avoid a Crash

If you hit a deer, brake firmly and stay in your lane. Try to avoid sudden swerving, which usually results in a more serious crash.

Get your car off the road as soon as possible, if you can. Then, call 911, stay buckled, and wait inside your car for help. Walking along any road, but especially a highway, is always dangerous.

Never attempt to move an injured deer.

MORE: Wisconsin Counties with the Most Deer Crashes and Injuries


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.



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