Deer-Car Collisions: The Truth

By David Kveragas

As sure as the leaves turning colors, every autumn now brings us a slew of articles in newspapers and other media outlets concerning the increased danger of deer-vehicle collisions.

The problem with virtually every single one of these well-meaning articles is that they fail to point the blame at the source of most of these collisions. This would be the nationwide practice of game management by both state and federal wildlife agencies, as well as a myriad of private, non-profit hunting industry front groups.

Many such articles blame everything from it being breeding season to drivers speeding, which are factors, but not the primary cause of such accidents. If there weren’t an over abundance of deer, often well beyond the natural carrying capacity, as well as imbalances in the sexes, these collisions would drop dramatically.

The aforementioned agencies and groups often claim to use wildlife management but they are actually practicing “game” management. The differences are a light year apart, despite attempts by hunters to meld the two terms.

Wildlife management seeks to work in conjunction with nature to maintain a healthy balance for all flora and fauna. Game management is the exact opposite as it seeks to maintain a handful of select species in unnatural numbers despite the effects they may have on the environment. In fact the detrimental aspects are actually used as reasons for maintaining the practices. The hunters will argue that if they don’t kill, excuse me, “harvest” the deer (to utilize their vernacular), they will overpopulate and destroy the environment.

The Olean (NY) Times-Herald in its September 30, 1978 edition quoted NYS regional Wildlife Manager Terry Moore as stating the following;

“We will attempt to increase the number of deer until we experience high incidences of deer car collisions, depredation of agricultural crops becomes intolerable and/or deer habitat begin to result in deterioration.”

Both state and federal “wildlife” agencies practice game management, even though in many states (including Pennsylvania where I live) it violates their legal purpose.

Game management practices for deer include specifically scheduling hunting seasons after the breeding season. They then mandate that bucks be targeted primarily so that the already pregnant doe (which are carrying twins on average and possibly triplets) will be able to replenish the herd so as to guarantee targets in perpetuity.

This practice also extends the breeding season by weeks and even months. A doe will only be fertile a few days per month. If she is not impregnated in that short window she will continue to come into heat until she is bred. That means more chases by bucks (and more collisions), especially when there are fewer bucks to handle all the does.

Other tactics include spending millions of dollars (tax dollars in most states) to build and maintain food plots, which cover tens of thousands of acres. Of course they will deny that such are intended for deer, but rather other wildlife. Yet the plots happen to be heavy on grasses and grains that deer readily partake. Essentially the agencies are treating deer as cash crops, while at the same time claiming they are keeping the herds in check so as to alleviate various property damages.

A century ago deer were on the brink of total extinction, due primarily to market hunting. Nationwide there were a few tens of thousands of deer. Today, due to the actions of hunters and the game agencies they control, there are tens of millions. In Pennsylvania alone there are estimated to be well over a million and as many as 1.5 million. This, despite “harvests” of anywhere from 400,000 to 500,000 annually.

The fact that hunter’s numbers continue to decline while traditional practices are still prevalent does not help either.

Every attempt to change let alone reverse these practices is met with masses of hunters carrying pitchforks and torches.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approximates the annual number of deer-vehicle collisions at 1,000,000 with 200 human deaths and over a billion dollars in damages. The estimate on damages is actually a low-ball figure as the average amount of damages is well over $1,000 as per other studies, including those by auto insurance agencies.

So it seems that the definition of “high incidences of deer car collisions” by wildlife managers is different from that of the average person, even 33 years later, as the practices haven’t changed.

Hunters often cite statistics showing that their activity is safe due to the low number of deaths involved based on the number of participants. Somehow they manage to ignore the ties between their activity, game management and vehicle collisions, and deaths and injures. For them to be so actively ignorant is understandable, but that they have been able to bamboozle the public, for generations no less, is another matter altogether.

There appears to be only one option for changing the status quo regarding deer populations and hence reducing collision (as well as other property damages).

Basically, the politicians who have the ultimate control over game agencies and public lands need to be aware that supporting hunters is not an option. We need to stop national and statewide organizations such as the NRA, US Sportsman’s Association, amongst others, from having the elected officials’ ears while lining their campaign coffers.

Contact campaigns and specifically ask where the candidate stands on hunting. Watch if the NRA and others endorse them. If that’s the case, contact the campaign and tell them you will not support the candidate and exactly why. Don’t assume that the NRA will endorse only conservatives. They have a standing policy, which I have talked to their leadership about personally, of endorsing incumbents, regardless of their stance on hunting or guns.

In any event something has to give, and soon. In the meantime the best we can do is spread the truth via letters to local papers, talk radio shows and any other means possible.
David Kveragas protects hundreds of acres of land in Pennsylvania. He is a former hunter and prolific letter-writer to PA newspapers and online chats. It’s hard to argue with someone who has been there. He knows hunting from the inside and exposes it for all to see the ugly truth.


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