One of the biggest problems that deer overpopulation brings to both rural and urban areas alike is the high rate of deer-vehicle collisions (DVCs) or deer-vehicle accidents (DVAs). According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission in their “Population Management Plan for White-Tailed Deer in Pennsylvania (2003-2007)”, “Nationally, about 29,000 people are injured and more than 200 people die each year in DVCs (Conover 1995). In Pennsylvania, State Troopers reported 21 human fatalities resulted from DVCs on Pennsylvania’s state and federal highway system from 1996-2001” (17). The more deer there are, the more damage they will cause. This essay will compare and contrast the effects deer overpopulation on our rural and urban roadways.
“Deer and Cars Don’t Mix, Deer on the Road” , written by Jim Kundreskas for the “Free Lance Star” claims that “According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, approximately 1.5 million deer-vehicle accidents happen every year nationally, doing about $1.1 billion in property damage” (Kundreskas, “Deer and Cars..” 1). As you can see from this data that this is a problem that is happening across the country in all types of communities. A high frequency of DVCs are only one type of problem brought on by deer overpopulation. When the population of the White-tailed Deer gets out of control many other negative things start to happen but DVCs are one of the most problematic because of its potential to cause harm to human life.
The rural community focused on here is Tioga County, in Northern Central PennsylvaniaIn 2007 rural land made up 86% of the total land of Tioga County (“Tioga”). Here deer can cause as much damage as anywhere and nothing much has been done to keep them away from the roads. I have lived in this area my entire life and already this year I have been involved in two DVCs. Both accidents occurred on route 49 heading from Knoxville into Westfield in the early hours of the morning. The first one was more serious than the second causing approximately $1,000 worth of damage.
Deer-vehicle collisions in Pennsylvania were extremely high a few years ago. In fact Rick Wills from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review stated that in November of 2005, “Pennsylvania’s deer-collision claims account for 18,000 of the total 179,000 State Farm received nationwide from July
1, 2004, through June 30.” This made Pennsylvania the leader of DVCs at that time (Wills, Pa. “Leads US..”). But, in 2008 an article titled “Pennsylvania Deer-Vehicle Collisions Down Slightly”, the Erie Insurance Company states that “– Overall deer claim frequency has gone down over the past 10 years. — In fact, 2007 had the second lowest number of deer claims since 1998. — Deer claim frequency is highest in West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia”. Currently Pennsylvania ranks as the third highest state for number of deer-vehicle collisions. This means that something out there must be working to either reduce the deer population or at least keep them off of the roads.
The deer do not seem to be particularly afraid of the roads in Amherst, NY either. At least they weren’t in the year of 2001. Amherst is an urban community that also faces the problem of a high rate of DVCs. The executive summary of “Town of Amherst Deer-Vehicle Accident Management Plan” says:
“DVAs are a particular problem in Western New York, and Erie County (which contains the Town of Amherst) is among counties in the State with high DVA counts. For several years in the Town of Amherst, the Town Board, Planning Department, community stakeholders, university scientists, and consultants have confronted issues of white-tailed deer in the community. The stakeholders agree that the problem of deer-vehicle accidents (DVAs) is reason for concern and justification for action.” (Premo & Rogers, “Town of Amherst ..” 1)
Data presented in “Creating a Town Deer-Vehicle Accident Management Plan” discusses that highest risk of getting into a DVA lies towards winter evenings (Premo & Rogers, “Creating a Town..” 11-12).
There are many methods out there to help lower the number of DVCs but they are said to be both time consuming and very costly. One of the cheapest and most common ways is to spread community awareness. In Amherst the very first step to solving the problem is “town-wide education” ( Premo & Rogers, “Town of Amherst..” 53). In Tioga County the Erie Insurance Company suggests to “Do the 10-point buck: Erie Insurance, which has tracked deer claims for a decade, suggests bucking the deer-vehicle collision trend through these ten tips” (Erie Insurance Company, “Pennsylvania Deer-Vehicle..”). These ten tips in the article include such things as being alert, driving for conditions, watching for deer at night and in the early morning, as well as others. Both of these instances show use of spreading community awareness.
Pennsylvania has also in fact started on their second 5-year deer management plan. This time around they are changing the way they measure the success of the program though. They plan on using the health of the deer and the habitat as a way of measure according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Other methods which are utilized but are very costly are summed up in the “Population Management Plan for White-Tailed Deer in Pennsylvania”. “Methods to minimize the number of DVCs without reducing deer herd numbers have been developed but have limited application because of costs (e.g., fencing, deer crossing signs, and reflectors [Pojar et al. 1975, Reed et al. 1982, Bashore et al. 1985, Schafer and Penland 1985, Feldhamer et al. 1986, Wood and Wolfe 1988]), and questionable effectiveness” (18). In order for the fencing to work it would have to be high enough so the deer could not jump it and run the length of the road which you were trying to keep the deer off. I personally have never seen this type of fencing in Tioga County. What I have seen in place, though, have been numerous deer crossing signs. I must also question the effectiveness of these because I know that I barely pay any mind to them while I am driving on route 49.
Amherst also uses these caution signs as well as lethal control and other methods to drive towards their goal to “Coexist with Deer” stated in the presentation titled “Addressing Deer Vehicle Accidents at the Community Scale” (Premo & Rogers, “Addressing Deer..”). At least they were in the year 2001; I was unable to obtain any later data on the project in Amherst.
In conclusion from this report DVCs are a major problem which happen nationwide from little rural areas to big urbanized communities. From the data presented above it is clear that Tioga County and the whole of Pennsylvania must be doing something right because DVCs within the state are continuing to decrease. Though unable to say from my data collected, I feel that Amherst, NY will have success as well.