ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – As Thanksgiving week commences, millions of Americans prepare to hit the roads with delicious sides and pies in tow. This year, travelers may encounter unexpected companions on their journeys – wildlife. In Texas, the state’s Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and experts warn of an increase in deer and hog activity along highways during this holiday period.

Steve Estes with Texas A&M Agrilife Taylor County told KTAB/KRBC there are about 5.3 million deer in Texas this year. He said we have a higher fawn crop now because so many couldn’t survive last year’s harsh temperatures.

“They are moving around more so this time of year and looking for other food, and sometimes that brings them out to our highways,” explained Estes.

The increased movement of deer is primarily observed during late evening and early hours, making drivers susceptible to potential collisions.

Estes advised that travelers should plan their trips during safer times, suggesting, “Maybe plan later in the morning through midday and early afternoon. You’re safer going in the highway for deer and maybe hogs as well.”

Drivers are urged to remain vigilant, especially during the evening when visibility is reduced. Estes emphasized the challenge of spotting hogs, particularly darker ones, at night, warning, “They don’t reflect as much light from the headlights.”

Notably, collisions with hogs can lead to extensive vehicle damage due to their size.

“They’re a little more detrimental to a vehicle when they hit them just because of the density of their bodies,” Estes cautioned.

Alaisha Montanez from TxDOT stressed the importance of adhering to speed limits and allocating extra travel time for unexpected issues on the road. Additionally, she pointed out ongoing bridgework causing potential congestion near Sweetwater and Roscoe in Callahan County.

“Always drive your best and pay attention to what you’re doing, but also pay attention to others on the road,” Montanez advised drivers, urging them to practice safe driving habits.

As the holiday season continues through January, and with deer season ongoing until spring, TxDOT reminds drivers to follow these safety tips throughout the year. They also suggest researching alternate routes, emphasizing a potential need to adjust travel plans unexpectedly.

As families gear up to hit the road as early as Tuesday, travelers are advised to anticipate traffic congestion, especially around Thanksgiving, a peak travel period. And of course, NEVER drive under the influence.