Reflecting on the deer departed

October 19, 2009

When it comes to hunting deer, you could say the weapon for 25 per cent of Manitobans is the front grille of their vehicle.

That’s because while hunters armed with rifles, bows and muzzle-loaders bagged an estimated 33,000 deer during the 2007/08 hunting season, about another 10,000 were killed after they collided with a vehicle.

According to Manitoba Public Insurance statistics, we’re already in prime deer hunting season for vehicles. And instead of fresh venison on the table, we’re left with millions of dollars in insurance costs.

October and November are the top months when deer come into contact with vehicles, MPI statistics show.

MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said 1,600 deer went to the forest in the sky after meeting the front end of a vehicle last November, while another 1,300 were dispatched the month before. “The two worst months for deer collisions are October and November because it’s rutting season—they’re moving around more,” Smiley said.

“Contrast that with our lowest month, February, with 429. There’s a huge difference between Oct./ Nov. and February.”

In total, Manitobans reported 117,000 collisions last year, but deer and wildlife collisions accounted for 10,089 of them.

While some areas in North America are reporting exploding deer populations—and a matching rise in vehicle collisions—Smiley said Manitoba’s wildlife collision numbers have remained steady at the 10,000 mark for the last few years.

The collisions are costly. Smiley said last year it cost $29.7 million to fix the vehicles or an average of $2,800.

Across the country, about 60,000 Canadian drivers hit a deer, about double the number from a decade earlier. The insurance tab was about $400 million.

MPI has a map on its website showing deer-vehicle crashes in 2005 and 2006. It shows where the top deer crash areas are in the city. There were 327 crashes between vehicles and deer in the city in 2005; 433 in 2006; 424 in 2007 and about 400 last year.

Vince Crichton, Manitoba Conservation’s manager of game, fur and problem wildlife, said the worst areas for collisions with deer are Wilkes Boulevard, McGillivray Boulevard, Sturgeon Road, and St. Anne’s and St. Mary’s roads near the Perimeter Highway.

“We encourage people to slow down in the fall when the rut is on as well as in spring when they are moving from their winter habitats back to their summer ones,” he said.

Crichton said Conservation staff counted 1,166 deer within the Perimeter Highway and another 622 in adjacent municipalities, in 2006. More than 580 of the deer were in Charleswood and Fort Whyte.

Crichton said MPI moves big flashing signs around the city to warn motorists about deer, but some of the ways Conservation discourages deer away from motorists are more subtle.

“We encouraged the floodway people to remove the trees beside the highway along Highway 59 and to plant vegetation that deer don’t like,” he said.

“And we have now given the (Birds Hill) Park people GPS units so when deer are hit they can mark the spot with the GPS. We’ve always known the numbers of deer hit, but we didn’t have the locations. Now we will.”

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Deer and wildlife move around more at dawn and dusk

Look for wildlife on the road ahead of you and in ditches on either side

Watch for the glare of headlights reflecting from the eyes of a deer

If you see one deer, there could be more getting ready to cross the road

Blow your horn instead of flicking your high-beam lights. High beam lights can cause the animal to freeze

Don’t try to avoid the wildlife by taking evasive action because you could end up in oncoming traffic or the ditch. Brake instead.

—Manitoba Public Insurance

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