Deer-related crashes spike in Pennsylvania

While the COVID-19 crisis has created untold hardships for people, it's been a boon for wildlife. Animals appear to be taking advantage of quieter streets and less industry to explore new areas.

SUNBURY, Pa. — If you live in the Valley and drive, there’s a good chance you’ve struck a deer.

It’s not just in the Valley. More Pennsylvanians have collided with a white-tailed deer, as of June 30, than ever before, based on claims filed with State Farm, the top auto insurer in the state and country.

Travis Lau, the communications director for the Game Commission, said Wildlife Management Unit 4D, which has parts of Union and Snyder counties, and WMU3E, which has parts of Union and Snyder counties and the majority of Northumberland and Montour counties, both increased in estimated deer population in 2017 and 2018. WMU4D was a one-year increase from 63,000 to 100,000 and WMU4E saw a continuing trend from 62,000 to 70,000.

Because WMU4E is showing a trend, Lau said they allocated for more hunting licenses this year.

The numbers are based on estimates as well as what the commission knows about the harvest. The commission believes that only one-third of hunters report their harvest, said Lau.

While State Farm estimates deer-vehicle collisions have decreased slightly to 1.33 million, from 1.34 million, nationally between 2017 and 2018, they have gone up in Pennsylvania, to 141,777, from the previous year’s 141,145. The company measures claims between July 1 and June 30 in each fiscal year, so the company could include a true rut season.

More than half (58.7 percent) of the drivers who participated in an online poll at said they have hit a deer while driving on Pennsylvania roads.

“November is usually the number one hit month when it comes to a (deer-vehicle) collision,” said State Farm spokesman Dave Phillips. “The average claim is between $4,179 and $4,341. “We’ve probably been in the top five for as long as we’ve been doing this study.”

Officer Bill Williams, of the Northeast Region of the Game Commission, said deer habitats are not shrinking in state or federal lands, but, “We’re always losing habitat on private lands” that might push deer out of those areas.

When in the rut, deer tend to be less cautious, especially the buck, he said.

“The decrease in daylight increases testosterone in the bucks, so that keys them in to breed,” Williams said. “They will chase a doe around until she is receptive. That could take days. They’ll run across highways and roads.”

During fawning season from May to June, does are also looking for a place for their young, he added.

“There’s another spike in being hit,” she said.

Phillips said 10 percent of all deer collisions with vehicles in the country occur in Pennsylvania.

“West Virginia is number one because of the odds or risk of a collision,” Phillips said. “But 10 percent of all deer claims are in Pennsylvania, based on State Farm data and estimates.”

He explained the odds are based on the number of licensed drivers and deer collisions.

He said drivers can reduce the risk of hitting a deer by being aware and slowing down.

“The main thing always is if an area is clearly marked deer crossing, you need to be cognizant of that,” Phillips said. “The faster you’re going, the more damage you’re going to do to your car.”

He said that sometimes it’s better to hit the deer head-on rather than to swerve and risk tipping the car or going into oncoming traffic.

“Just slow down,” Phillips said.

Categories: Whitetail Deer

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