Hills deer crashes creeping upward

Car/deer crashes have dropped significantly in Rochester Hills since the deer herd was decimated by epizootic hemorrhagic disease in 2009. But such crashes were up slightly in 2011, with the city recording the second-highest total in southeast Michigan. Oakland Township was ranked third.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments reported 139 deer/vehicle crashes in Rochester Hills in 2011, up from 122 in 2010. Oakland Township reported 111 crashes in each of the last two years; the city of Rochester, 6 in each year. Oakland County had the most car-deer crashes in the seven-county SEMCOG region and ranked second among Michigan counties. There were two fatalities in the region, including one motorcycle driver. Eight people died statewide.

Rochester Hills has been surveying its deer herd since 1999 but was unable to do so last winter due to lack of snowfall. Even so, on Monday the city’s Deer Management Advisory Committee presented its annual report to city council, recommending that the city continue its educational approach to crash reduction.

“The committee in 2009 came up with a benchmark,” said Chairperson Jim Kubicina. “We would not recommend lethal action unless the deer/vehicle crashes got up around 200 and the deer population went up 20 percent. So we’re well below those two benchmarks.”

In 2007, car/deer crashes hit 219 and there were vocal complaints from residents about the destruction deer were causing to landscaping. After a brief but highly controversial culling operation, the committee was formed to advise council on deer management.

Since then, garden-related complaints have dropped “drastically,” Kubicina said.  “I think 2009 was the high point.”

Crashes dropped to 122 in 2010, at least in part due to an outbreak of EHD. This year, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources says EHD is on the rise. It is suspected in the death of 10,400 deer statewide, with more expected to be reported as hunters take to the fields. So far only one has been reported in Oakland County. The DNR is asking hunters and all residents to report sightings of dead deer in an effort to monitor the outbreak.

“Deer have died in substantial numbers in at least 29 counties this summer and fall due to EHD, and the DNR’s Wildlife Division is recording reports of dead deer in these areas in order to answer questions from the public and prepare informed hunting season recommendations for 2013,” reads a statement on the DNR’s Website.

EHD is caused by a virus that is transmitted by a type of biting fly called a midge. Humans are not affected.

With so many variables, the Rochester Hills committee is recommending the city continue its present strategy: a feeding ban, education and lighted, moveable signs to remind drivers they are entering a high-deer area.

The city is also reminding drivers that in the event you encounter a deer in your path, “Don’t veer for the deer.” Statistics show that most human injuries occur when drivers swerve to avoid hitting a deer, and instead hit a fixed object, such as a tree, or another vehicle.

“Our strategy and awareness campaign is working and over time has produced tremendous results in improving the safety of our residents and driving public,” Mayor Bryan Barnett said.

Speak Your Mind