The Ashridge Estate is warning drivers to beware of deer leaping in front of their cars after two recent road deaths.
Daniela Ruggiero, 18, and her 17-year-old passenger were killed on the A10 in Ware on Tuesday after hitting a deer and colliding with a Volvo.
Their Citreon C1 burst into flames and the driver of the Volvo was taken to hospital with leg injuries.
Ashridge Estate lead ranger Lawrence Trowbridge said: “Wild deer pose a very serious threat to motorists.
“The animals often appear suddenly causing motorists to swerve or even collide with other vehicles.”
Deer road crossings are at their highest in October during the mating season, called the rut, and in spring when baby deer – or fawns – are born.
There are between 50 and 60 collisions between drivers and deer in Ashridge every year. Fallow deer are the most common species of the animal in Ashridge, and a large male fallow – called a buck – can weigh up to 150kg.
Mr Trowbridge said: “Collisions with animals of this size can cause a great deal of damage to vehicles.
“In some cases, tragic human fatalities occur like the two teenage girls near Ware.
“In many cases the deer and other wild animals involved are subjected to huge amount of suffering through terrible injuries.”
The number of collisions between drivers and deer in the Ashridge Estate, which is owned and managed by the National Trust, has fallen in recent years.
A national deer collisions project has aided the reduction through ‘deer deterrent’ devices that reflect vehicle lights and make sounds to try and stop the animals from crossing roads.
Mr Trowbridge said: “The real key to this is that motorists understand the risks and drive at safe speeds in areas where deer are likely to cross.
“If you see a deer cross the road, my advice is to slow down and look for the ‘next deer’. Fallow deer are like sheep, they move around in herds and when one crosses the road, all the others in the herd want to.”
Deer could cross roads anywhere in Ashridge and drivers should be extra careful at dusk and dawn, when they are more likely to be moving. They are creatures of habit and regularly cross roads in the same places, so drivers should watch out for warning signs.
If you collide with a deer, call police on 101, put on your vehicle’s hazard lights and wear something reflective.
Mr Trowbridge said: “Don’t go anywhere near the injured deer, it’s just not safe. Remember that it’s a wild animal and will be terrified of any human contact.”