Laura Ingalls Wilder season normally brings with it a lot of folks trekking across the Midwest and the Great Plains who aren’t accustomed to country driving and getting to any of the Laura homesites requires country driving. One thing that you rarely encounter driving in cities is having to deal with deer-car collision (although deer populations do seem to be on the upswing in urban areas too). The population of deer in Iowa has soared since it was reintroduced by “accident” in the early 20th century. Iowa has a particularly robust population thanks to the policies of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, but you will find dealing with deer a strong possibility anywhere in Laura country.
The Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources gives the following recommendations if you’re not used to driving in an area with a high deer population.
- Slow down!
- Be extra alert at dawn and desk, when deer are the most active.
- At night, use high beam headlights whenever possible and scan the road ditches.
- Watch for the NEXT deer. If one crosses, others often follow.
- Don’t veer for deer. You’re safer to hit the deer than to run off the road or to hit an oncoming vehicle.
(They made it a rhyme hoping that people would remember it, but in plain English aim straight for the deer if it’s in your lane, don’t try to give it space by changing lanes or taking the ditch, fatalities and serious injuries increase if you try to avoid it once it’s in your lane. – SSU)
- Expect to see more deer during the November rut, during the hunting season, and during crop harvest. Also use extra caution in May and June, when does are giving birth and chasing away last year’s fawns.
- Pay attention to deer crossing signs. But realize that deer may cross a road almost anywhere in Iowa. (Make that anywhere in the Midwest, no matter what definition of Midwest you use. – SSU)
While I’m at least used to driving in deer country, on our family’s trip to Prince Edward Island (over a decade ago now) we almost ran into a moose and her calf that crossed in front of us on a road in Maine. Luckily we saw it far enough back that we had time to safely slow down and let her cross, but it was a good lesson that being on vacation doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen (as did the tire blow out at Montezuma’s Castle in Arizona) so be careful, drive safe, and be prepared on your Laura trip.
UPDATED November 26 2016: Everything still looks right, but I added my signature block.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.