DNR: Deer-vehicle collision stats can be misleading

Greenfield, Ill. – Drivers in Jo Daviess, Hancock, Pike, Greene,
Crawford, Perry, Jackson, Johnson and Hardin counties are five
times more likely to hit a deer than drivers in any other county,
according to the Illinois Insurance Journal.

Overall, there are about 1.5 million car-deer collisions in the
United States each year. In Illinois, there are about 25,000
car-deer accidents annually, the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration reported.

Increases in accidents the past two years has led the state to
implement changes for the 2009-10 hunting season in hopes of
reducing the numbers.

According to DNR, the changes in regulations are the result of
comments from landowners, deer management professionals and the
state’s Joint Deer Population Task Force, which recommended
controlling the state’s deer herd based on collision numbers.

DNR forest wildlife project manager Paul Shelton said people
often judge deer overpopulation by the number of collisions in a
particular area.

Raw numbers, however, can be misleading, Shelton said, noting
that the highest number of auto-deer collisions occur in Cook
County. But the given number of cars on the roads and the miles
driven in Cook County gives Cook County motorists the lowest
probability of striking a deer.

Shelton said most Illinoisans tend to look at statewide totals
of deer-car accidents as a true gauge of the danger to all
motorists in Illinois.

The state hopes the new hunting regulations will help minimize
overpopulation in some areas of the state, Shelton said, but it is
still important for motorists to be alert to areas where deer are
known to be.

This time of year can be extremely dangerous in low-lying areas,
wooded areas close to roads and cultivated fields when deer move
near the roads.

According to the Illinois Insurance Journal, claims involving
collisions with deer are on the rise. Deer-car accidents have risen
almost 25 percent in the past two years.

Shelton said there has not been a lot of changes in the size of
Illinois’ white-tailed deer herd in the past five or six years,
noting that the state’s herd population is estimated to be at
700,000 to 800,000.

In 2008, Shelton said there were 25,188 deer-vehicle accidents,
and the highest number of deer-vehicle accidents occurred in 2004,
with 25,847 deer-car accidents.

Some of the changes in regulations this deer hunting season
include, among other changes: extending the archery deer season,
which will be from Oct. 1 to Jan. 17; a seven-day firearm season;
muzzleloader-only season Dec. 11-13; a youth deer hunting season
Oct. 10-11; and expanding the availability of deer hunting
permits.

During the 2008-09 season, the harvest of white-tailed deer
totaled 188,425, which was a 5.6 percent decrease compared with the
preliminary harvest of 199,671 in 2007-08.

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