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CASH Courier > 2005 Winter Issue

Selected Articles from our newsletter

The C.A.S.H. Courier

ARTICLE from the Winter 2005 Issue

Can We Reduce Deer/Car Collisions?

BY PETER MULLER

Every year, across the nation newspaper articles decry the many deer-car collisions that, cause $1.2 billion in property damage, over 110 human deaths, thousands of human injuries, and cause agonizing pain and ultimate death to wildlife.

In the late fall and early winter when deer are on the move due to the rut and hunting pressure the problem is exacerbated and is often cited as evidence of “overpopulation.”

From the perspective of wildlife, we’re really dealing with an overpopulation of a certain species of primate that segments natural eco-systems with roads on which they speed, pops up barriers and plasterboard – and then chases and shoots at deer during their mating season sending them fleeing across highways and smaller roads.

Aside from the cost to the human party in a deer car collision, the outcome to the deer is almost always a painful, often protracted death.

We as animal advocates are in agreement with the community at large that measures should be taken to end or drastically reduce this horrendous situation.

Deer car collisions should be reduced – but the usual answer is to reduce the wildlife population through hunting. This ruse, as we know, is not going to work since hunting does not reduce the overall deer population in a region – in fact it is counter-productive in that it usually will increase the size of the regional deer-herd.

An estimated 1,500,000 deer-vehicle collisions occur annually nationwide. Of those70%–80% occur between dusk and dawn.

Communities have to be willing to undertake pro-active measures to reduce deer-car collisions along its roads.

In several states the Department of Transportation (DOT) has investigated, installed and found a promising and cost-effective method that has reduced night-time deer –car collisions dramatically in many locations: Strieter-Lite® reflectors.

This patented system of reflectors and installation methodology demonstrates it can reduce night-time collisions by 78%–90%! This effectiveness is on dark roads where most car-deer collisions occur.

The methodology and concept are straight-forward and explained by the diagram in this article.

The Nevada DOT writes in its Spring, 2003 edition of NDOT News, their quarterly publication: “A three-mile section of US 50 east of Dayton was outfitted in 2002 with a Strieter reflector system used in several other states to keep wildlife such as deer and elk away from traffic. We chose the section of Highway 50 near Dayton because that is a migratory deer route and also has wild horses that stray onto the roadway,”

Gail Bellenger, NDOT staff biologist, said. This is the first time the reflectors have been tested on a wild horse population, but it has proven effective in other areas for a wide range of animals, including herbivores like deer, elk and moose, and predators like foxes and coyotes.

Road Management & Engineering Journal in its May 12, 1997 publication took a survey of the effectiveness of Strieter-Lite® reflectors.

Some installations from California, Colorado, Maine, Ontario, Washington State, and Wyoming reported that they found the reflectors ineffective or not cost effective. we discovered that all of the [new] kills had occurred in places where we had ‘gaps’ or ‘holes’ in our reflector coverage.”

Other Installations from British Columbia, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington State, and Wisconsin found the reflectors to be very effective.

In conversations with John Strieter at the Solon, OH Conference [See What We’ve Been Up To..], the designer of the Strieter-Lites, and most experienced implementer, emphasized the importance of proper installation and maintenance.

In order to get efficient use of the reflectors they must be installed in accordance with the schema shown in this diagram.

If the reflectors are popped up haphazardly the reflective scheme does not work.

The pattern of reflectors must also be maintained. If and when individual reflectors are damaged they must be replaced in order for the system to remain viable.

The negative reports all failed to include pictures and diagrams of the actual installation and reports on their state of repair.

Steve Chicka, a county engineer in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, explains, “The effectiveness of the reflectors became quite obvious when

The typical cost for one mile of reflectors ranges from $3,400–$4,000. Most reflectors average 12.5 years of service thus costing only $272 to $320 per mile per year. The total cost of installation with posts and labor is $7,000–$10,000 per mile. Thereafter the cost is negligible; only maintenance expenses are required.

Based on several states’ maintenance records, the cost per mile per year to maintain the reflectors is $500.

In a study of Strieter-Lites by Robert H. Grenier, their effectiveness is summarized by the graph included here.

The reduction of deer/car collisions demonstrated is extremely effective and consistent. A good way to help wildlife and your community is to urge local town officials and highway superintendents to install these reflectors along town, county and state roads.

Peter Muller is vice president of C.A.S.H.

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