Monday, May 18, 2009

CONNECTICUT NEWS: Deer Kill Up, Deer Collisions Down

Road kills of deer in town have declined dramatically over the last decade, as the number of deer taken by hunters has risen.

“If you kill deer by hunting them, you get fewer car accidents,” Conservation Commission Chairman Ben Oko said. “That seems very clear.”

But a vast lowering of deer numbers — the culling of five out of every six deer now roaming Ridgefield’s forests — would be needed to bring the population down to levels that research has found can make a difference in keeping down ticks and Lyme disease.

The state counted 122 deer road kills in 1998, and just 35 in 2008. Deer taken by archery hunting rose from 55 in 1998 to 222 in 2008.

The pattern holds — with some ups and downs — across the 12 years from 1996 to 2008, according to statistics assembled by Howard Kilpatrick, a wildlife biologist with the state environmental department.

And Ridgefield no longer leads the state in the number of deer killed on its roads.

“Ridgefield was consistently ranked number one for many years — it was for three, four, five years anyway,” Mr. Kilpatrick said. “In 2007, they were ranked number seven.”

Ridgefield Police count more road deaths of deer than does the state, but the trend is similar. Road kills fell from 205 seven years ago to 90 last year, according to Police Chief John Roche.

Annual road-kill totals from 2001 to 2008 were: 205, 129, 172, 198, 146, 115, 127, 90.

No method of counting deer — hunted, killed on the roads, or running in the woods — can be taken as 100% accurate, Mr. Kilpatrick said. His numbers are based on Deer Kill Incident Report forms that police all across the state fill out when they go to the scene of an accident.

The higher numbers from the Ridgefield Police include those incidents, but also count carcasses found along roads when no accident is reported.

Mr. Kilpatrick’s numbers on deer harvested are based on tags turned in by hunters, and are likely low since not all hunters turn them in. Still, he said his numbers were meaningful because the methodology was consistent over the 12 years.

“We know the reported harvest is low. We know the reported deer road kills are low,” he said. “But our method for collecting that data is the same, so any trends should reflect what’s really happening out there.”

“What Howard is saying is that there is still a correlation, whether it’s reported as what he had, or what we had,” Chief Roche said. “There is still a drop in the number of deer found dead on the side of the road.”

Full story at: Acorn Online

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