Deer are increasingly popping up all over the place, including in front of vehicles.
Since 2003, deer-vehicle accidents in Indiana are up 25 percent compared with 15 percent for the rest of the nation, according to State Farm Insurance, which used insurance claims to come up with its statistics. One in 129 Indiana drivers was likely to collide with a deer between July 1, 2007, and June 30 - the 11th-highest rate in the nation, according to State Farm.
Allen County deer-vehicle accidents dropped from 656 last year to 512 this year, according to the Fort Wayne post of the Indiana State Police. But the numbers have steadily risen over the last decade. In 1998, the number was 360.
Shanley said the accident did about $7,500 worth of damage to his vehicle. The approximately 1.5 million deer-vehicle accidents in the United States in the most recent year cost about $1.5 billion, according to the Institute for Highway Safety. The human cost was approximately 150 lives, 10 in Indiana. The last fatality in Allen County was in 2004.
As with Shanley - or the driver who struck a deer Wednesday on Stellhorn Road by the entrance to Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne - there is often no time to avoid striking a deer.
Sgt. Ron Galaviz, an Indiana State Police spokesman, said drivers who don't think they can safely steer around a deer should just brake.
“We don't want anybody getting hurt trying to miss a deer,” Galaviz said.
Often this time of year, motorists see more deer running from the woods because of rifle-hunting season, which started Saturday. Last year, 124,427 deer, including 1,665 in Allen County, were killed in state-sanctioned hunting, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The statewide number is a nearly 20 percent increase from 1998, but deer-vehicle accidents continue to increase. Deer hunting may be good for making money for the state through the sales of hunting licenses, but it has little effect at reducing deer-vehicle accidents, according to Laura Simon, Humane Society of the United States, field director.
Simon said while hunting temporarily thins the herd, it leaves more vegetation to eat for surviving does. The more they eat, the more offspring they have, Simon said.
“It would be nice to shoot out the problem, but the solution is not so easy,” she said. “We just don't think it's effective, and, of course, we don't think it's humane.”
Simon recommends deer sterilization programs and use of roadside reflectors and motion detectors to reduce deer-vehicle accidents.
Whether through hunting or nonfatal methods, residents such as Greg Gorrell of 4788 Parkerdale Drive near IPFW would like to see fewer deer in their neighborhood.
Gorrell says he's seen a lot more in his yard since moving in 1990, including the stinking, rotting corpse he had to get animal control workers to remove. He suspects it was a deer that had been struck by a vehicle.
Gorrell said annexation expanded city limits and reduced deer-hunting areas. “There's no predators other than motor vehicles,” he said.
Avoiding deerDeer-vehicle accidents are up around the county, state and nation. Drivers - who have a 1-in-127 chance of colliding with a deer in Indiana - are urged to exercise caution.
♦Be extra alert in areas where deer crossing signs are posted.
♦Remember that deer are most active between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
♦Use high beams as much as possible at night in areas where deer will enter roadways.
♦Remember that deer travel in herds. If one crosses in front of a vehicle, more are likely to follow.
♦Drivers should steer away from oncoming deer only if they can do so safely. Swerving, rather than braking, increases the likelihood of losing control of the vehicle.
Sources: Indiana State Police, State Farm Insurance.