Thinning the deer population

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A recent study showing collisions between vehicles and deer in Iowa are on the rise have some legislators saying it might be time to thin the state's deer herds for the safety of motorists.

In the past 20 years, the number of collisions involving deer has grown from 4,805 a year to more than 16,000 as the deer population in Iowa has mushroomed by 280 percent.

Recent reports show collisions with deer comprise 15 percent of all traffic collisions in Iowa and 35 percent of all collisions in the state's rural areas.

On average, three people are killed on Iowa roads each year because of accidents with deer.

The Iowa Insurance Institute said collisions with deer accounted for nearly $100 million in insurance claims last year, up from $70 million five years ago.

The Institute noted that many of the available tactics used to avoid such accidents, such as deer reflectors and sensors that detect deer and warn motorists have been relatively ineffective.

One successful strategy has been building 8-foot high fences along the highways to keep deer off the roads, but the fences are very expensive to install and maintain, making this an impractical option.

One Iowa lawmaker said if the state wants to get serious about reducing the deer population, it must force hunters to take does before they are allowed to hunt bucks. "To be blunt, you've got to kill the girls," said the legislator.

Opponents to thinning Iowa's deer population say hunters from other states spend millions of dollars in Iowa every year and those economic benefits far out-weigh the property damage the deer are causing.

We say, what about the three people killed on average, and the hundreds of others injured or maimed each year in the state after their vehicles collide with deer?

Regardless, the thriving deer population is obviously a problem and a costly one at that.

To encourage hunters to "invest" in a solution through their willingness to bag does, plus the economic impact in their purchase of licenses, clothing, food and lodging, guns, bows and related ammo, appears to be the most viable option out there.