By Elisa Black-Taylor
This article is a bit off of the beaten path from what I usually do. I imagine a lot of you are probably going “huh?” at the title. Bear with me, and I’ll explain how an object to prevent hitting a deer can possibly also save a cat. I’m doing this article as a public safety message as well as possibly saving the life of a poor cat who may wander in front of an automobile.
Deer on the Road
First I’d like to tell everyone about my area of the country. I live between the upstate and the midlands of South Carolina. I’ve had men tell me they moved to this area because of the excellent deer hunting available. The deer in my area are very restless. Between the hunting and the loss of forest being destroyed in the name of progress, it’s difficult to avoid hitting a deer while driving. Deer are especially bad at night on rural roads and are being seen closer to metro areas as their natural habitat is being destroyed. One of my co-workers has hit four in the past few years. My neighbor has also hit one very close to our neighborhood. There are at least a dozen deer who hang out with me at work. I sit and watch them graze almost every night.
I haven’t hit a deer for several years now. I was chatting with a highway patrolman back in 2009 about the number of deer on the side of the road (both living and dead), and he suggested I get a set of deer whistles. Law enforcement officers in my area swear by them and use them on their patrol cars. They’re also recommended to use on the front of motorcycles. For those of you who don’t know what a deer whistle is, here’s a crash course.
The Deer Whistle
Deer whistles are available for well under $10 (mine were $6) at auto parts stores and major retailers as well as online. They are sold two to a set, with each whistle producing a different sound when air goes through them. One whistle supposedly scares female deer and the other scares the bucks. You must install them exactly as instructed on the package or they won’t work. The deer whistles produce a high pitched sound when air passes through them while traveling at least 30 mph. Deer are said to be able to hear that sound from a quarter mile away. Mine are attached under the front grill on the car bumper.
There are many who say the whistles are a waste of money and don’t work. I went online and did some research. Like me, there are many users who swear by them. There are also just as many who say they’re worthless. After installing the whistles on my last car back in 2009, I noticed the deer would run from the side of the road when I drove near them.
I got a new (2004 Mercury) a month ago and hadn’t bothered to purchase a new set for my new car. I’ve spent the past month dodging deer, dogs, cats and rabbits on my way to and from work. It’s no fun driving 30 mph down a country road because you’re waiting for an animal to jump out in front of your car. Deer cross from a field to the woods or vice versa. They also stand on the side of the road, leaving you to wonder what they’ll do as you drive closer. You’ll probably live should one jump in front of your car, although anywhere a deer hits usually means damage to the vehicle. I knew a lady who had a deer come through her driver side window.
Statistics show the average vehicle repair bill is around $2000. Not to mention medical bills if anyone in the vehicle is injured. I’d also assume the costs would skyrocket when the car behind you hits you after you hit the deer. There are a few thousand deaths each year where drivers are killed when they hit a deer. Many of these are caused when the deer lands on the hood and kicks through the windshield. I actually had an ambulance driver tell me to speed up if I knew I was about to make impact, because you need to be going fast enough to throw the deer over your car. I hope I never have to make that decision.
So last week after missing a deer by less than a foot, I decided it was time for a new set of deer whistles. They’re easy to install. Mine are on the front of my car on the front bumper. Since putting them on, I’ve noticed the roadside doesn’t have what I like to call “deer hitchhikers.” Those are deer who just stand by the side of the road and watch you drive past them. I haven’t seen any deer at all in the past week. I HAVE watched several rabbits, dogs and cats do a 180 degree turn and run away from my car.
I’ve now scared three different cats away from my car while driving towards them. This is unusual, because usually the cats dart across the road and scare the crap out of me. I’ve been fortunate never to hit a cat while driving and don’t want to break my good record. It got me to wondering whether cats can hear the whistle as I approach and are afraid of it. Outdoor cats, as well as ferals tend to be skittish around strange noises.
Cats Can Hear Them
So I did a few online searches where I studied how well cats can hear. Guess what? Cats (as well as dogs) CAN hear deer whistles! This information came from online forums and not scientific data, so feel free to form your own opinion on this. I’m just glad to see the cats going away from my car and not putting me through the trauma of hitting a cat. There are so many wandering around at night in the rural areas.
The point has also been brought up that if the deer whistles are so effective, why aren’t new car makers using them as standard equipment.
One word of caution to people who live in “horse country.” Horses being transported or ridden where there’s traffic are allegedly very sensitive to the pitch of deer whistles. There may be areas where it’s not safe to use the whistles as they may cause a horse to panic.
We Should Try Them
It’s up to the readers here as to whether or not to believe deer whistles work. I will say I’ve had very good luck with them and recommend them to friends. It’s nice to know I’m possibly scaring cats away from the road as well. If they don’t work, you’re only out a few dollars.
One comment I read during my research told there are lots of wrecked junkyard cars wearing them. My question to this would be whether the car was in a vehicle/vehicle accident or did the car hit a deer.
What if the deer whistle doesn’t hold much weight in its intended use, and instead becomes a warning system for cats to get out of the way of an approaching car. Stranger things have happened over the years when one product gains fame for doing something no one expected it to do. If there’s even the slightest chance it can scare off a cat, isn’t it worth the price?
I’m not positive in any way that these will work on deer or cats. My own personal experience doesn’t prove it one way or the other. The way I see it, if there’s even a tiny chance a deer whistle will deter a cat from crossing in front of a moving car, it’s worth the effort and cost involved.
Readers, have any of you ever used deer whistles? Did you notice any other animals scattering when they heard the whistle? Or do you think they’re a waste of money?