|MadSci Network: Zoology|
Jill: Q. Why did the chicken cross the road? A. To show the deer it could be done. All joking aside, deer-automobile collisions are a serious problem in many areas of the United States. First off, to answer your question, there is nothing that specifically attracts or makes deer run in front of cars. I would propose that the number one cause of deer (and other animals) being hit on roadways is something called habitat fragmentation. Habitat fragmentation is when large areas of wildlife habitat are broken up into smaller areas by some topographic feature. Keep in mind that deer are large, very mobile animals that need large areas of land to survive. When habitats in which deer live are broken up by roads, the deer are forced to cross the roads on a regular basis and this inevitably causes accidents. The problem is further compounded by the fact that deer, while not specifically attracted to cars, are attracted to urban areas (ask anyone who has a garden in an area with deer ;) which increases the probability that any one individual deer will be hit by a car. Along the same lines, deer are also attracted to roadsides and shoulders because these areas are often planted with plants that deer find highly attractive to eat. In cold areas of the country, deer are also attracted to roadways by the salt that is put down to de-ice the roads. I have personally seen deer feeding along roadsides get hit by oncoming vehicles and it isnít pretty for the deer or for the driver of the car. Unfortunately, I donít think we will ever fully solve the problem, but there are some things that can help alleviate it. The first thing to come to mind is to ensure that there isnít a deer abundance problem in urban or suburban areas. Many urban areas have an overpopulation of deer and subsequently have more trouble with deer-automobile collisions than areas with a controlled deer population. The best (best meaning both effective and economical) way to control a deer population is by regulated hunting, although in urban areas people tend to have a more anti-hunting attitude and traditional hunts are not always safe in the suburbs. Research is currently being conducted on alternatives to traditional population management techniques such as wildlife contraception. One area in Michigan is even using GIS technology to address the issue of deer collisions from an urban planning perspective. For more information on the subject, visit the links below: http://www.conservation.state.mo.us/conmag/1997/10/5.html http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/options.html http://www.forestry.uga.edu/warnell/faculty/html/warren/Theriogenology.pdf
(you need Adobe Acrobat Reader for this one) http://www.white-water-associates.com/cardeer.htm While controlling deer populations is best left to wildlife professionals, there are a few things you can do personally to help reduce the deer collision problem. I would encourage you to landscape with plants that are unattractive to deer so that they are not drawn to your neighborhood. Your local Agriculture Extension Agent can provide you with information on which are the best deer-proof plants for your area. Additionally, just using common sense when driving through problematic areas can be your best personal defense. Obey speed limits, keep your eyes open for deer on roadsides and wear your seatbelt. I hope this has helped! Take care! Gail
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