Displaced by backwater flooding, deer increasingly collide with motorists; sheriff’s patrols have hit dozen already

Published 7:20 am Tuesday, July 23, 2019

As deputies from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office continue their patrols in Eagle Lake and other areas affected by the Yazoo Backwater Area flooding, they are encountering a serious hazard — deer.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said his deputies have experienced a high number of collisions with the animals as deputies patrol the levees and roads in the flooded area. While some of the collisions have been serious, none have disabled any of the cars.

“Because of the fact that we routinely patrol rural areas, we do have incidents with deer in a normal year, but we average about four deer crashes per year in the rural areas,” Pace said. “This year, we have had 12 in the flood area alone since February. “None of them have involved a patrol car responding to a call where there was any speed involved. These have all been low speed impacts, and most of them have been where the deer have actually run into the side of the car.”

Pace said his deputies have also taken several reports from citizens where the same thing has happened to their private vehicles while traveling to and from their homes in the flooded areas.

All of the collisions, he said, have occurred in an area from U.S. 61 at Redwood to a few miles north — Floweree Road, Mississippi 1, the Mississippi 465 Levee and Eagle Lake northwest. Eleven cars have been hit, he said. One of the cars has been hit twice. There was one non-flood related collision when a deer hit a patrol car on U.S. 80.

Pace said the increase in incidents is the cause of the ongoing flood in the backwater area that has taken away much of the deer’s habitat. Pace said the deer have nowhere to hide when vehicles approach them, and then they panic and run into the road.

“It’s just heartbreaking to see the wildlife suffering like they are,” Pace said. “The deer in that flooded area have no place to go. They’re huddling on the levees and when a patrol car or any vehicle comes through, sometimes it will cause them to panic, and you’ll have 12 to 15 deer running from one side of the levee to the other.

“We’ve had numerous incidents where the deer would just run into the side of the car,” he said, adding most of the deer survive the collisions.

Pace said he has multiple deputies pulling 12-hour shifts in the flooded area, providing daily, 24-hour coverage. And, when they’re patrolling those areas — especially at night — they are in harm’s way from the wildlife.

Pace said it’s another reason people should stay out of flooded areas.

“This is more the reason that if people do not have a reason to have to be in these areas, they shouldn’t be,” Pace said. “The wildlife are extremely stressed. There are far too many deer on these levees but it is the only means to access the Eagle Lake area.”

In order to provide a law enforcement presence on the lake, Pace said, “We have no choice but to travel those levees. Unfortunately, it’s the only dry place these wildlife have to seek refuge.

“It’s just a sad reality of having to put automobiles in an area where you have thousands of deer seeking refuge on the levee,” Pace continued. “If there were any other way to get there, we would be doing it. The levee is the only access to the area to provide law enforcement and protection for the people with property there.”