November 24, 2013

Drivers advised to watch for increased deer population this winter

Maine deer population has bounded back to 200,000, recovering from the winters of 2008 and 2009 when about a third of the state’s deer died.

By Kaitlin Schroeder
Staff Writer

click image to enlarge

WHITE TAILS: A herd of whitetail deer cross a frozen pond in Monmouth.

Staff file photo by Andy Molloy

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WALKING ON WATER: A pair of whitetail deer cross the Kennebec River from Richmond to Swan Island. Drivers should be on the lookout for deer this winter due to a rebounding population of the herd.

Staff file photo by Andy Molloy

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After 45 deer-vehicle collisions in 31 days on Waldo County roads, Chief Deputy Jeff Trafton issued a warning.

“I’m not sure why it is up so much. It seems like an awful lot,” he said.

State officials say there may be more of the same this year because of an increase in the deer population.

An average of 1 out of every 207 drivers in Maine will hit a deer — the greatest risk of any state in New England except Vermont, where the chance is 1 in 180, according to Rennaisance Insurance Alliance, a group of New England independent insurance companies. The number of vehicle collisions with deer is 2,600 to 3,000 a year, a range that has remained steady since 2008.

The chance increases in November, the mating season. In the last decade, 19 percent of the state’s deer collisions have occurred in November, according to the state Department of Transportation. The third week of November is usually when the number of deer collisions peaks.

Ravana said most regions in the state are within or close to their goal population range of deer.

The population ranges, he said, are set by considering the biological carrying capacity, but also social factors such as hunters’ desires for a bountiful season and the need for traffic safety.

The goal populations are re-evaluated every 15 years, and Ravana said they may change in 2015.

“We try to find a social balance,” he said.

State officials are warning drivers to look out for more deer on the roads this winter, because herds have recovered from severe losses several years ago.

About a third of the state’s deer died during the 2008-09 winter, but the population has bounded back since then to about 200,000, according to the state deer biologist.

To minimize the risk of a deer collision, state officials say, drivers should drive more slowly in areas posted with deer crossing signs, use high beams when possible and remain aware of their surroundings.

Someone driving 50 mph would drive about 175 feet before reacting to a deer, and it would take about 400 feet to stop, according to the Department of Transportation. It would take someone driving 70 mph 250 feet to react and about 725 feet to stop.

There have been three fatalities in the state over the past decade from deer-related collisions, compared to 22 fatalities from moose-related collisions, according to the Department of Transportation.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252
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