They aren't armed, but they can be dangerous.
Deer -- those innocent-looking, fleet-footed creatures of the woods -- have been known to wander onto highways and dart in front of all kinds of speeding vehicles, including police cars.
Baltimore County police said yesterday that to prevent such run-ins with the law, they had purchased 30 deer whistles, at $10.95 each.
County police say there have been 10 accidents since January 1988 in which a deer has been bashed by a police car, requiring car repairs that cost a total of $9,270.
The whistles are expected to reduce those numbers, said Sgt. Adrian Hughes, a member of the department's safety unit. They will be installed on police cars used in rural areas that are known to be deer hangouts, he said.
The whistles, purchased from Cabelas Inc., a hunting and outdoor gear company in Sidney, Neb., are about the size of a human thumb, can be attached with tape to the front bumper of a car and are activated by the wind when it reaches 30 miles an hour, he said.
They emit a sound that is beyond the range of the human ear but can be detected by animals up to 400 yards away, he said.
He was unsure if the county police agency was the first in Maryland to purchase the whistles, but he said that they had been tried by police departments in Riley County, Kan., and James County, Va., and that officers in both jurisdictions swore by them.
"We see it as kind of an experimental program," he said.
He said they would not be installed on vehicles carrying police dogs.