Statistics: Deer, Elk Pose Little Road Danger.

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Take heart, Arizona drivers. According to a leading insurance company, you'd have to go to Hawaii to have less of a chance of hitting a deer or elk, than you have here in the Grand Canyon State.

But don't get lulled into a false sense of security, law enforcement officials say. Deer and elk are out there, and Arizona drivers who let their guard down can wind up with mangled vehicles or worse.

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A bull elk is shown in this undated photo from the Arizona Department of Game and Fish. According to State Farm Insurance, Arizona drivers have the second-lowest chance in the nation of hitting a deer or elk in the coming year. But law enforcement officials say there still are plenty of such accidents and that drivers who don't pay attention in areas with deer and elk can wind up with mangled vehicles or worse.

Officials also note that October through December is migration and mating season for deer and elk, making this the busiest time of year for animal collisions.

"They're so fast. They're unpredictable," said Sgt. Dean Faust of the Payson Police Department.

"You might see their eyes in your high beams, but sometimes you're not paying attention."

Basing its estimates on claims data, State Farm Insurance reports that Arizona drivers have a one in 1,545 chance of crashing into a deer, elk or moose in the next year. Actually, the chance of hitting a moose is pretty much zero, since wildlife officials say the state doesn't have them.

That ranks Arizona 49th in the country in likelihood of such accidents, trailing only the Aloha State, which lacks native deer, elk and moose.

West Virginia drivers face the greatest risk, with a one in 57 chance, followed by Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Iowa, State Farm said.

Arizona's ranking doesn't mean much along the Mogollon Rim, where Paul Rehman, deputy chief at the Heber-Overgaard Fire Department, sees plenty of accidents involving cars and deer or elk, including two accidents in one day last week.

"You hit an elk with your car, you ain't going anywhere," Rehman said.

At the scene of one, an elk-versus-car collision, the animal was nowhere in sight.

"We found some fur, a hunk of antler and no elk," Rehman said. "But the guy's car had to be towed away."

Faust said drivers around Payson often mistake glowing eyes for road markers and don't respond in time or react by swerving and losing control.

"A lot of people see the animal and then drive off the road, and then they hit the trees," Faust said.

Some of those accidents are unavoidable, Faust said, but others can be prevented if drivers pay better attention.

He said drivers should keep their eyes on the road, especially in the early evening hours, when the animals move most often.

And don't assume you're safe just because you aren't driving in northern Arizona. Some mule deer live in desert areas, said Tom Cadden, a spokesman for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

"They're distributed pretty widely throughout the state," Cadden said.

Drivers who wind up hitting a deer or elk can get one benefit out of the encounter: By law, they have a right to the dead animal's meat.

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