If you're an animal lover, you may think deer, porcupines, frogs and other wildlife are beautiful, maybe even adorable, creatures. But for drivers, deer and other animals can be a nuisance — and a hazard.
Auto insurance giant State Farm says nearly 2 million vehicle accidents with wildlife cause serious enough damage to result in insurance claims each year. And, there can be injuries, or worse.
State Farm says these are the 15 states where crashes with deer and other animals happen most often, counting down to the state where motorists face the highest risk. If you live there, slow down — and keep your eyes open.
14. (tie) Missouri
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 79
In any year, 1 out of every U.S. 116 drivers will have a collision involving an animal, primarily deer, State Farm says.
To put that in perspective, you're less likely to be audited by the IRS (the odds of that are 1 in 175) or to discover that your child is a genius (1 in 250).
How does State Farm come up with the collision odds? It calculates them using data on animal-crash insurance claims and numbers of licensed drivers in each state. In Missouri and the other states on this list, the crash risk is much greater than average.
14. (tie) Arkansas
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 79
From July 2018 through June 2019, America's motorists filed an estimated 1.9 million insurance claims involving crashes with animals, State Farm estimates.
During the previous one-year period, the company counted 1.33 accidents, though at that time State Farm was looking only at crashes with deer and their relatives: elk, moose and caribou.
Your chances of hitting an animal in Arkansas are high because the state's deer population has made a stunning comeback. Deer were "near extinction" here in the early 1900s but now number in the millions, reports the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
13. North Carolina
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 76
The Tar Heel State logged nearly 18,000 vehicle collisions with animals during 2018, and an estimated 90% of those involved deer. About half the crashes occurred during October, November and December.
The average deer-related collision in North Carolina resulted in an insurance claim for $2,500 in damage, says auto club AAA. And, there are other costs.
“A collision with a deer can be devastating, endangering the passengers, the vehicle and the deer,” says Tiffany Wright, a spokeswoman for AAA Carolinas. “This fall, we urge motorists to always scan the sides of roads for animals, including deer."
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 74
Virginia's Department of Game & Inland Fisheries says the state's up to 1 million white-tailed deer "provide welcome viewing opportunities but also generate serious damage and public safety concerns."
But deer are far from the only threat on Virginia's roads, which include winding scenic highways through the state's mountains and rural routes leading to the state's Atlantic beaches.
A study on country roads in southwestern Virginia counted more than 1,800 cases of road kill during 2016 covering 64 different species, including over 1,400 mammals — and seven frogs.
11. South Carolina
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 68
Each year, South Carolina motorists have about 2,400 impactful encounters with deer. State officials are quick to point out that the crash stats are much lower than in other states, and are way down from 20 years ago, when South Carolina had 30% more deer.
The population has fallen to around 730,000 because of factors including development — and coyotes.
Animal crashes drive up insurance premiums for everyone, but you can hold down your coverage costs by taking advantage of every car insurance discount you're entitled to.
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 64
Minnesota has about 1 million white-tailed deer, found in every county in the state.
And they can be dangerous: Vehicle accidents with the animals killed 18 people between 2014 and 2018, Minnesota officials say.
Don't let your guard down if you see one deer that has finished making its way across a road, State Farm warns. There might be more following behind. Maybe a whole stag party.
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 61
The only Southern state in the top 10, Mississippi has an estimated 1.75 million white-tailed deer. The Mississippi State University Extension says only Texas has a larger deer population.
(Texas is big in everything, it seems — even deer.)
State Farm says in any state, the risk of hitting a deer doubles in the fall, when the animals are mating. November has typically been the month with the most deer-crash auto insurance policy claims, followed by October and December.
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 60
Michigan is another state with a ginormous white-tailed deer population: an estimated 1.75 million, same as Mississippi.
Deer are generally most active at dusk and dawn, so those are peak times for crashes.
Drivers should be most alert for deer from sunset to midnight and during the hours around sunrise, says the trade group the Insurance Information Institute.
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 57
Milwaukee may be known for beer, but Wisconsin is one of the top states for deer — and deer crashes.
Wisconsin's 1.3 million deer have been identified as one of the top wildlife threats to humans in the state. The animals are involved in around 20,000 motor vehicle crashes a year, according to state data.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation tells drivers that if they do hit a deer, they should stay buckled up inside their cars. A motorists who gets out and walks along the road could be struck by another driver.
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 56
Deer are a frequent sight at Yellowstone National Park and all over Wyoming, which is home to several deer species. Mule deer are the most common, numbering nearly 400,000.
As in other states, deer are usually a problem in the fall. But in 2018, Wyoming motorists got an earlier-than-usual warning about deer crashes when the animals started becoming a hazard on highways over the summer.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation has been testing high-tech reflectors that are designed to make deer more alert to approaching vehicles.
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 55
Wildlife officials in the Hawkeye State say the risk a driver will make contact with a deer or other animal has been on the decline. But Iowa remains among the top five states for crashes with critters, where it has been since at least 2015.
State Farm says 58% of the animals struck by Iowa motorists are deer, while dogs and cats are close behind, followed by farm animals.
The state's Department of Natural Resources likes to tell drivers, "Don't veer for deer." If deer are in your path, apply your brakes if you're able — but don't swerve, because you could find yourself in a far more serious crash.
4. South Dakota
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 54
If you ever visit South Dakota's scenic Black Hills, be careful — because there are deer in them thar hills.
The state has an estimated 540,000 white-tailed and mule deer, and the Black Hills area is one of their preferred spots.
State Farm says if you want to avoid catching a deer in your headlights, use your high beams to see farther down the road — except when there's oncoming traffic. You don't want to blind your fellow motorists.
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 52
On average, every square mile in Pennsylvania is home to 30 deer, says the Penn State Extension. But the state's estimated 1.5 million whitetails aren't the only wildlife hazard on the roads.
Pennsylvania also has a population of 1,000 elk, pictured above. They're massive deer relatives that can weigh as much as half a ton. The state's elk population is centered in — where else? — Elk County.
The animals are so huge that in February 2018, a leaping elk brought down a low-flying helicopter in Utah. Imagine what one could do to a car.
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 48
This gargantuan state gives around 550,000 white-tailed and mule deer plenty of room to roam, but they still find their way into the path of traffic far too often.
"We've seen them jump out into highways and freeways and populated areas where a lot of big collisions happen," State Farm's Brodi Hurtado told KURL-TV.
Officials use collision data to determine whether to build culverts or bridges in high-crash areas, to help animals bypass traffic and cut down on accidents.
1. West Virginia
Odds of hitting an animal: 1 in 38
The state that's No. 1 for animal crashes is West Virginia — and it's been here before. In fact, this is the 13th year in a row that West Virginia is the place you're most likely to hit a deer or other animal with your car.
The winding mountain roads can make it difficult to see an approaching deer until it's too late. Plus, the state is loaded with the critters: There are about 23 deer for every square mile.
Some motorists use ultrasound deer whistles in hopes of letting the animals know they need to get outta the way. But State Farm says there's no scientific evidence that car-mounted deer whistles are effective. Your best approach is to simply stay alert.