Motorists across North Carolina are being warned to stay alert for deer now that fall has arrived.
A study from the N.C. Department of Transportation shows that in 2012, there were 20,181 animal-related crashes. While that's the lowest number in three years, the crashes boosted the three-year total to 61,688, with 20 fatalities, nearly 3,500 injuries and more than $144 million in damage.
Officials also say about 90 percent of all reported animal-related crashes involve deer, and 50 percent of those crashes traditionally occur in October through December.
Deer activity is on the increase as a result of the mating and hunting seasons. Crashes are most common between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., and from 6 p.m. to midnight, when more vehicles are on the road, deer movement increases and limited visibility makes it harder for motorists to see them on or near roadways.
Wake County leads in the number of animal-related crashes for the 10th year in a row, although the 991 crashes reported last year was its lowest figure since 2006. Its high ranking is attributed to the large number of drivers and miles of roads in the county, along with the abundance of wooded areas.
Guilford County finished second at 668 crashes, followed by Pitt County at 619, Duplin County with 596 and Johnston County at 492 animal-related crashes.
Western counties, where there are considerably fewer roads and drivers, reported the lowest number of crashes. Graham County is at the bottom of the list with only seven crashes, followed by Swain County at nine and Graham County with 12.
The NCDOT has set up maps where you can see where deer collisions have happened in your county. You can find them here.