Bambi kills 150-200 people every year in the United States. In 2002, deer-auto collisions sent 26,647 to hospital emergency rooms. In a typical year, deer kill 10 times more people than sharks, bears, alligators and cougars combined. While government safety data reports that there are 275,000 deer-auto collisions each year, the Insurance Information Institute, a New York based group that looks into various insurance-related issues, says that most accidents go unreported. It estimates that there are 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, each costing the insurance industry approximately $2,000 per claim, or $1.1 billion annually.
Now a commonly repeated fallacy—mostly by wildlife-ignorant journalists—is that during deer season hunters chase frightened deer across roads where motorists smack into them. The weakness in this argument is that, according to numerous studies, deer-vehicle accidents peak an hour after sunset. Hunters can’t legally hunt an hour after sunset, so if people are chasing deer into roadways, they’re poachers.
Hunters, however, are to blame for the current number of deer-auto collisions on our roadways. Really they are! From 1900 to the present, it is hunters and money generated from surtaxes on hunting equipment and from hunting license fees who brought whitetail deer populations back. Once market hunting for deer was abolished and regulated hunting seasons went into effect in every state, wildlife biologists with state game departments (which, on average, get 75 percent of their funds from hunters) and private hunter-conservation organizations transplanted deer from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and from other wild areas where they’d held on, and put them in every backyard from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Hunters and the state game departments then decided that shooting does (female deer) was off-limits, because does were the seed for more deer. The herds needed to grow, they said. And grow they did.
The transplanted deer grew into a national problem. In 2001, hunters killed 7.4 million whitetail deer, and drivers killed 1.8 million, out of a nationwide deer population of over 30 million. In contrast, when Henry Ford was first turning out the Model T, only about 500,000 whitetails were found in the entire U.S., according to the U.S. Biological Survey. In 2003 there were 201 fatal crashes, a 27 percent increase compared with 2002. In a typical year, deer-vehicle collisions kill more people in the U.S. than do all commercial airlines, train, and bus accidents combined.
So every time you see a deer in your headlights blame sportsmen. By the way, the same goes for turkey, elk, moose, black bears and many other wildlife species. Hunters, and their money, brought them back to bother us all, too. Let’s hope people are smart enough to continue to let hunters control these wonderful game populations, for wildlife’s sake and ours.
For more, check out The Politically Incorrect Guide to Hunting.