Deer strikes still on the rise, take caution when driving

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According to the Ten¬nessee Wildlife Resources Agency the range of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Tennessee has expanded from a few counties in east Tennes-see in the 1940's to all 95 counties in the state.

Herd growth has been such that hunting is allowed in all Tennessee counties with the Tennessee deer herd numbering approxi¬mately 900,000 animals. The deer herd in middle and west Tennessee has reached the point in some areas that management ef¬forts are focused at slowing or stabilizing herd growth, and sometimes reducing the overall size of the herd. These population trends and goals should continue into the near future.

"From 1954 to 1964, 64 deer were stocked on Ar¬nold Air Force Base," Rick McWhite, Arnold's Natural Resource manager said. "Today, deer populations are doing quite well in the United States and at Arnold with the es¬timated population at about 3,660 deer."

Deer vehicle collisions (DVCs) can result in major property damage and, in some cases, injury to ve¬hicle occupants. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, about 1.5 million DVCs are es¬timated to occur annually in the U.S., resulting in around one billion dollars in property damage and 150 deaths.

The results of close analysis of DVC data collected since 1987 by Aerospace Testing Alliance Security Forces and Conservation personnel can answer some impor¬tant questions regarding safety.

1) Have the DVCs on base increased? Analysis of the annual number of DVCs indicates that there has been a significant de¬cline.

2) Are there months of the year in which DVCs are more likely to occur? Anal¬ysis by John Lamb, ATA Conservation, indicates that there is a significant difference in the patternof DVCs (Figure 2). Drivers should be vigilant watching for deer when driving, but take extra care in the fall and winter months.

3) Are DVCs more like¬ly to occur during certain times of the day? The time of the DVC is not a variable recorded on base. Howev¬er, numerous other studies have found that DVCs are more likely to occur during the hours around dawn and dusk.

Drivers are asked to take extra precaution at these times when deer are more active and drivers are less likely to see them.

4) Are there areas where DVCs have been concen¬trated in the past and are, therefore, more likely to occur in the future? A Geographical Informa¬tion System analysis was used to analyze the DVCs. Contour lines were created that represent

"Extreme, High and Medium" risk of DVC (Figure 3). A DVC can happen on any road, but drivers should slow down and be extra vigilant in the high DVC probability areas.

According to McWhite, Arnold is currently work¬ing in partnership with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency on new strategies to reduce the deer population and thereby re¬duce the number of DVCs. For example, special Deer-Archery Zones have been designated near some of the "Extreme Risk" areas.

However, no strategy can completely eliminate the risk, so it is up to drivers to take due diligence on the road. Finally, if a deer is hit, be sure to report it to the ADEC Police at 454-5662 so they can continue to evaluate the issue.