Deer are elegant, graceful animals — unless they wind up on the hood of your car. Then they become broken, bloody and ugly. Your car and you could be broken also. This time of year is prime time for vehicle-deer collisions.

Deer are elegant, graceful animals — unless they wind up on the hood of your car. Then they become broken, bloody and ugly.

Your car and you could be broken also.

This time of year is prime time for vehicle-deer collisions. Man has invaded territory that used to be wilderness, driving deer and other animals from their habitats. Also, hunters are out in force. That combination leads to deer running onto roads and in front of unsuspecting motorists.

Vehicle-deer collisions are costly — about $1 billion in property damage annually — but rarely are fatal. Only two Illinoisans were killed last year out of more than 24,000 accidents.

Winnebago County had 290 collisions in 2008 while Boone had 89, Ogle 264, Stephenson 251, McHenry 366, Whiteside 252, Lee 265 and DeKalb had 139. Cook County led the state with 1,008.

Nationally, vehicle-deer collisions are up 18 percent, according to a report released by State Farm Insurance Cos.

Illinois has fared much better. Accidents are up only 3 percent. Illinois consistently has been in the top three in vehicle-deer collisions, but has dropped behind West Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Montana.

There’s a vehicle-deer collision every 26 seconds in the United States, according to State Farm’s data. There were about 2.4 million deer-vehicle crashes between July 1, 2007, and June 30, 2009. That’s about 100,000 every month in the United States.

Be cautious, be aware and don’t become a statistic.

Rockford Register Star

If you hit a deer

If you hit a deer with your car, contact local, county or state law enforcement. Do not attempt to remove a dead or injured deer from a busy roadway. Illinois law requires all accidents resulting in damage of $500 or more to be reported and an accident report to be filed with police.

The driver involved in a deer collision may take possession of the deer. If the driver does not want the deer, any Illinois resident may claim the animal. Anyone possessing the deer must keep a personal record of the date the deer was claimed, the sex of the animal, the location of the accident and the place where the deer or deer parts are stored. This information must be kept until the deer is consumed or no longer in the possession of any person. This information must be provided to any law enforcement officer investigating the death and possession of the deer.

Source: Illinois Department of Natural Resources