Vehicle-deer crashes on the rise in Washtenaw County, southeast Michigan
On a list of 10 southeast Michigan communities, Scio Township ranked No. 4 for vehicle-deer crashes in 2009, according to a Southeast Michigan Council of Governments news release. And the number of vehicle-deer crashes has gone up in the county, southeast Michigan and across the state since 2008.
Scio Township had 119 vehicle-deer crashes last year, which put it at No. 1 in Washtenaw County. Rochester Hills was No. 1 in the state with 163.
York Township was No. 2 in the county with 86, followed by Webster Township with 81, and Pittsfield Township with 72, according to data from the Michigan Department of State Police Criminal Justice Information Center.
Mary Dettloff, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said deer are overpopulated in the southern-most -third of the state, or anything south of Clare, due to less hunting of them.
"The population in the southern half of the lower peninsula is well over the population goal the department has for them," Dettloff said. "The population is approaching 1 million (in that portion of the state)."
She said a few factors contribute to the problem, including lack of public hunting land, and an abundance of ideal deer habitat that she says "human beings unintentionally create" when building large subdivisions surrounded by woods, or by clearing land for agricultural uses.
"Because of the heavy emphasis on agriculture in the southern parts of the state, there tends to be more land for deer to take up habitat," she said.
The number of vehicle-deer crashes in Washtenaw County rose from 1,167 in 2008, or 11.3 percent of all crashes, to 1,202 in 2009, or 12.3 percent of all crashes, while the total number of overall crashes in the county decreased.
There were 6,560 vehicle-deer crashes in Southeast Michigan in 2009, compared to 6,278 the year before. The number for the entire state also increased from 61,010 in 2008 to 61,486 in 2009. But the number of vehicle-deer crashes that resulted in human fatalities decreased from 12 to 10 — all of which involved motorcycles, and none of which occurred in Southeast Michigan.
According to the release, most vehicle-deer crashes occur between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.
Dettloff said the state encourages hunters to hunt in southern Michigan, rather than travel north, because "hunting is the best population management tool for deer."
To ease the problem of scarce public hunting land, Dettloff said the state has created a Hunter Access Program, through which it leases private land — including farm land — throughout southern Michigan for public hunting.
Find more Washtenaw County crash data by city here.
Find more data and safety tips for motorists, motorcyclists here.
Heather Lockwood is a reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.