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
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
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
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
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.