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Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2004

CAR-DEER CRASHES RISE DURING HUNTING SEASON

Livington County roads especially risky, statistics show

Friday, November 26, 2004
BY KATIE WALTON
News Staff Reporter

'Tis the season for deer-car collisions in Michigan, where more than 67,700 such crashes were reported last year and officials estimate that up to 13,000 more crashes went unreported.

Livingston County led the state last year in deer-car collisions with 1,424 crashes, two of which were fatal. Statewide, collisions were up more than 7 percent from 2002.

The crashes are no laughing matter. There were 11 deer-related fatalities in Michigan last year. Deer collisions cost at least $130 million in damages in the state each year, said Lori Conarton, communications director for the Insurance Institute of Michigan. That's an average of about $2,000 for each vehicle involved in a crash.

AAA spokesman Jim Rink, a member of the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition ,said the start of the firearms deer season on Nov. 15 marks an increase in the number of deer-car crashes because more traffic is on the roads near popular hunting destinations.

Coalition officials said they have no estimates as to whether there will be more collisions this year than last, but AAA spokeswoman Nancy Cain said preliminary data show that this year's crash rates are consistent with last year's.

The firearms deer hunting season is a particularly ripe time for deer-car collisions because hunters infiltrating the woods disturb the deer during their breeding season, said Shawn Riley, a professor of wildlife ecology and management at Michigan State University. "(Hunters are) creating a lot of movement, so you get that spike (in activity)," Riley said.

Riley, who is studying car-deer crash activities, said many crash-prone roads were built as rural passageways but now carry a heavy volume of commuter traffic. He said such roads were not designed to provide the visibility needed to spot a deer darting from the woods.

This is particularly a problem in areas such as Livingston County, which Riley said is prime deer habitat because of a combination of woods and farmland.

Rod Clute, a big game specialist for the state Department of Natural Resources, said the state's deer population numbers between 1.7 million and 1.8 million. Clute said 900,000 of these live in the lower half of the lower peninsula.

Clute said hunters generally kill about 500,000 deer every year. But since more than 50 percent of those are males, the remaining female deer have fawns in the spring, keeping the population relatively stable.

While the deer population has remained constant over the past couple of years, the human population is encroaching on deer territory, raising the potential for crashes.

The population of Livingston County rose more than 10 percent between April 2000 and July 2003, according to the Census Bureau.

Michigan State Police Sergeant Thalia Stambaugh estimates her detachment in Livingston County responds to five deer crash calls per day during the fall.

Area collision shops have also noticed the fall spike in crashes. Kate Lawrence, owner of Lawrence Auto Body in Brighton and the city's mayor, said her business has increased since the start of the deer rutting season.

2004 Ann Arbor News. Used with permission

Copyright 2004 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.


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