What is a deer whistle?…it’s a simple device attached to the front of your car/truck/motorcycle  that gives a warning sound to animals that may be in your driving path.  The sound it emits is designed to alert animals so they can get out of your way, thereby avoiding any type of collision.

Air whistle

What is a deer whistle ?  Air operated deer whistle shown above.

Do Deer Whistles Really Work ?

Many people swear by them claiming that since installing their device, have had no further incidents with striking animals standing in the road or having to swerve to avoid them.  On the other hand, others say they do nothing at all.

So we need to analyze this subject a bit more in order to make an informed choice.

According to some experts on deer related vehicle road accidents, tens of thousands of animal strikes happen each year in the United States alone.  On the other hand, others say it is closer to the one and a half million mark of yearly incidents.

Not only is it a slaughter of animals on our highways, but the millions of dollars spent in automotive repairs is tremendous.  Insurance companies are more likely to increase premiums in areas where more animal strikes occur such as in heavily wooded areas, than, let’s say, in a city.

deer whistle

A deer whistle was needed here

What About The Lives That Are Lost?

An animal strike by someone riding a motorcycle can be, and is usually, very deadly for the bike rider.

Though cars/trucks do give a measure of protection or sorts, they too, are no guarantee that a person will survive a deer strike.  Why not?  Think about the possibility of a 400 to 1000 pound animal flipping up and into your windshield coming right into the front seat.

Can this happen?  Yes.  Deer, elk, or even moose (in certain parts of the U.S.) are found walking on or crossing roads every day.  Many are lying dead on the shoulder of roads where they were struck by a passing vehicle.

deer whistle

Another style air operated deer whistle


Over the years, there have been many methods tried in order to keep animals off the roadways.  Some of those methods have been better roadway lighting, deer guards, high fences along roads, lure crops near highways, even “fake” road salts, along with a huge variety of  chemical repellants.

Success comes with mixed results.  Since the above has not been scientifically calculated, it is hard to say whether or not they work.

This brings us to auditory deterrents a.k.a. deer whistles.  Being one of the most popular and simple deterrents to install on all vehicles, many drivers rely on these devices.

Can The Deer Hear Them?

Deer whistles give off a whistling sound that can be heard up to 1500 feet.  Usually the electronic whistles that connect to your battery, work the best.  On the other hand, there are deer whistles that mount to the front of your vehicle by means of double-stick tape.  They’re activated when reaching speeds over 35 miles per hour.  The rushing air through the whistle gives off a high pitched whistling sound.

However, be aware that this type of whistle is rather limited in emitting it’s sound much more than 100 feet.  Perhaps not giving the driver enough time to react to a deer/elk/moose or bear, standing in the road or giving enough notice to the animal that you are coming through.

deer crossing road

White tailed deer crossing roadway


Moose crossing road


Though more expensive, it seems that the electronic type whistle gives off a much longer ranged whistling sound.

Deer hearing is highly sensitive.  After all, they are a non-aggressive type animal.  They’re usually the one’s that are being hunted by other animals and from time to time, humans during hunting season.  So it’s no wonder that they always keep on the lookout.

Deer can “rotate” their ears to catch sounds.  It would be similar to a satellite system that can be pointed towards a certain sound in order to pick it up better.  Though each ear can work independently of each other, they can also work together.  In this way, deer can pinpoint where the sound is coming from and decide whether or not is would be best to avoid it.

Tests have concluded that deer can hear high-frequency sounds much better than low-frequency sounds.

Ultrasonic Frequency Is Best

The original deer whistles were invented in Austria back in 1979 and have been quite popular in all of Europe and throughout the United States and Canada.  Being a simple and inexpensive air activated device, this is the whistle that many people choose to purchase.  They can be as little as five dollars a pair.

Ultrasonic deer whistles can be a couple hundred dollars.

Depending on your vehicle, it’s value, those within it, or riding on it, will make the difference to many who will purchase these quality type deer whistles.

big rig deer whistle

Big Rig deer whistles can be used on other vehicles too

However, keep in mind that since deer can hear high-frequency  sounds much better than low-frequency, we need to remember that a wind-type of deer whistle can not create the ultrasonic frequency that deer are able to  hear.  They only product the lower-frequencies.

Even so, there is never any guarantee that these whistles will work 100% of the time whether it be the lower priced whistles or the higher priced units.   Why not?  There can be several reasons.

It may be that the sound is not being projected far enough ahead in order for the deer to react to it.

Deer may not be able to determine whether  or not this whistle sound is a threat.

And the deer may not be able to mentally process this sound and be able to react to it.

What Needs To Be Done ?

Since the ultrasonic sound is used as an alert to animals that you are approaching, the deer should be able to have time to react to it. Therefore, the further out the whistle sound can be heard, the better.

Deer are unpredictable in their movements.  Usually when deer pick up an unusual sound, they react by stopping, turning their ears towards the sound and then try to interpret it as to whether or not it is dangerous.

Often times, they will look towards the sound, listening intently to it and upon not viewing it as potential danger, will not move.  Having your deer whistle capability being able to be heard as far into the distant as possible, is the type that seems to work best.

Alternating Sounds

Emergency vehicles have one of the best devices.  These devices will alternate sounds between low and high frequency.  Complex and diverse sounds usually catch the attention of deer. Similar to catching the attention of drivers.

Weather Conditions Do Matter

Just as in inclement weather, a motor vehicle or even a human voice, can not be heard very well or very far,  be aware that as a driver, your deer whistle may not be heard as far ahead as you previously have known it to do so.

deer whistle needed

Deer whistle in heavy traffic

deer whistle country roads

Deer whistle needed on country roads too

Which One ?

Each individual driver needs to evaluate which whistle is right for them, their driving habits, type of vehicle, it’s value, people you are transporting, and the cost of the deer whistle.

It seems that the more expensive deer whistles can produce high-frequency sounds or ultrasonic sounds that deer and other animals can react to.  The air operated deer whistle begins to operate at 35 mph and above, producing sounds that can be heard up to about 90 feet.

Is It Working ?

You can watch the animals you pass and their reactions to you and your vehicle.  Usually dogs, squirrels, or deer (hopefully they are not on the roadway) can give you the correct indication as to whether or not your whistle is working.

Keep in mind that wind operated deer whistles need to be kept free of debris.  So periodically check it and clean it out if needed.  Electronic deer whistles  begin working when you turn on your ignition.

dog howling deer whistle

If you see something similar…you know your deer whistle is working!

You Can Not Hear It

But don’t worry about hearing it as the sound is higher pitched than the human ear can detect. Even the air activated unit can not be heard from inside your vehicle.  It’s similar to the “silent” dog whistle.

Have you had experience with deer whistles?

Leave me your comments below and share this site.

Written by:  Tom McDaniel