Darien, Connecticut — Friends of Animals (FoA) concluded a nationwide survey into the magnitude, characteristics, and underlying causes of highway collisions between deer and automobiles, and has determined that hunting is an important cause of many deer/auto collisions.
This first-of-its-kind survey represents a thorough analysis of data supplied by participating state wildlife and transportation agencies, supplemented with information from insurance agencies and wildlife biologists.
FoA's president Priscilla Feral says, "FoA's report points to persuasive evidence from 33 reporting U.S. states that indicates a three fold-increase in deer/auto collisions during the months of October, November, and December: Hunting Season."
Each year, nearly 500,000 collisions between deer and automobiles are reported in the United States. Deer are killed in nearly all of these accidents, and more than 100 humans die as well. Another 10,000 humans suffer injuries inflicted by these accidents.
Insurance companies dole out about $1 billion in claims each year to cover deer/auto collisions, adding financial burden to the human and non-human suffering costs of these accidents.
"As autumn approaches, hunters and their apologists at state wildlife agencies tout the need to "control" deer numbers as a method for reducing the incidence of deer/auto collisions on the nation's highways," Feral says. "And," she adds, "the budgets of state wildlife agencies are tied to revenues received from hunting licenses and related transactions. These apologists may be apprehensive of probing into any potential linking between increases in deer/auto collisions and the occurrence of hunting."
"Based on FoA's findings," Feral says, "one can make a valid argument that hunters actually contribute to the increase in deer/auto collisions by serving as agents provocateurs who, by their presence and predatory activities in deer habitat, incite the deer to incautious, evasive flight, resulting in collisions. Deer are normally very cautious when entering an open area, such as a road. When pursued, they will abandon this prudence and bolt across a road without even slowing down."
Connecticut reports 3,098 deer killed during 2000. Of these, 1,495 deer (48.26 percent) were killed during the three month period of October to December while the remaining 1,603 deer (51.74 percent) were killed during the nine month period of January to September.
The Erie Insurance Group, Pennsylvania's second largest insurer, observes, "Last year, Erie Insurance received an average of 34 claims a day. That number rose nearly five times on the first day of buck season and doe season for 157 and 160 deer losses, respectively."
The states of Pa., Ala., Minn., N.M., Ore., S.D., Texas, and Wash. don't collect any data on deer/auto collisions despite the costs in suffering and financial loss incurred by their citizens.
FoA's report finds that most deer/auto collisions occur during early morning and early evening hours, which coincide with peak hunting hours.
The report calls for the adoption of universal standards in reporting deer/auto collisions, the establishment of campaigns to promote technology that would ameliorate collisions, and a driver's education campaign.
Ultimately, FoA concludes that all hunting should be discontinued. Says Feral, "On the score of safety alone, there is enough evidence to warrant an end to the violent and dangerous practices of hunting."
The number of hunters in the United States has been in serious, steady decline as indicated in data from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 's 2001 National Survey. In 1996, there were 13,975,000 licensed hunters in the U.S. Today there are 13,034,000. In the last five years, 941,000 persons — or 7 percent of the 1996 figure — have abandoned hunting.
In contrast, nonviolent, wildlife-watching activities such as observing, feeding, and photographing wildlife are on the rise. In 2001, 66 million — 31 percent of U.S. residents enjoyed wildlife-watching activities, and spent $40 billion on their activities.