Drivers beware: It’s deer mating season on the North Fork

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO Charlie Johnson, owner of Charlie’s Quality Collision in Riverside, takes notes on a Toyota Prius that will need body repairs after the driver hit a deer last week in Southold. The estimate was for $3,460.

If you drive down Main Road in Cutchogue, you’ll see light-up deer decorations in front of Rich’s Auto Body. But shop owner Rich Bozsnyak didn’t do that because the holidays are fast approaching.

It’s decorated that way because November is the start of deer mating season — and that means big bucks for his business.

“Thank God for deer season,” Mr. Bozsnyak said. “It’s a very important part of our business. They do a lot of damage.”

So far this year, Mr. Bozsnyak has fixed about 50 cars hit by deer, and the damage they cause can cost drivers between $3,000 and $15,000.

Mr. Bozsnyak said he’s encountered a few motorists who are reluctant to have their cars repaired for fear their auto insurance rates will go up. But deer damage is considered a comprehensive claim and state law prohibits insurance companies from either dropping coverage or raising rates based on deer-related accidents.

He said most of his customers have crashed into deer while driving along Route 48.

“They’re all over the side of the road, just hanging out,” he said.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, deer mating season begins in the fall and ends in December. Over 50,000 deer-vehicle collisions occur in New York State each year during this time period.

Due to decreased daylight, more cars are on the road at dawn and dusk, when deer typically start moving around. Deer-related accidents occur most often between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 and 6:30 p.m., DEC officials said.

Charlie Johnson, owner of Charlie’s Quality Collision on Riverleigh Avenue in Riverside, said he’s already seen an increase in business this year from deer collisions.

He said about 300 cars damaged by deer were repaired at his body shop last year. Early this season, he’s already worked on 75 cars involved in deer hits.

“From November to March and in the summer we see a lot of hits,” Mr. Johnson said. “November isn’t even over yet and we’re seeing a lot more deer, that’s for sure.”

DEC officials said the deer population, which they estimate at between 10,000 to 21,000 on Long Island, is expanding slowly west into western Suffolk County and eastern Nassau County along the North Shore and barrier islands. They said drivers should use extreme caution during deer mating season. If you see a deer, they caution, slow down, because it might sprint across the road, and be alert for other deer that may follow.

Mr. Johnson, who said most customers at his Riverside shop strike deer along County Road 104, believes most drivers hit them because they steer their cars away from the animals.

“You have to steer toward the deer because he’ll be gone from that spot by the time you get there,” said Mr. Johnson, who has owned his shop since 1979. “But the bottom line is, if the deer hits you, there isn’t much you can do.”

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