OFF THE WIRE
Deer-car crashes surge in Wisconsin Danger increases during November mating season
12:23 AM, Nov. 2, 2011
Written by Charles Davis Green Bay Press-Gazette
Learn what you can expect during Wisconsin's gun-deer season Nov. 19-27, including a change that allows bow hunting during gun season.
Online Go to www.greenbaypressgazette.com and click the link with this story to use a searchable database of 20 years of car-deer crash statistics for every county in Wisconsin.
Related Links Datamine: Car-deer crash statistics for all Wisconsin counties Public safety officers are gearing up for more vehicle accidents involving deer this season after fatal crashes doubled statewide last year.
Fourteen people — including one person in Brown County — were killed in deer-related crashes in 2010, up from the seven deaths recorded in 2009, according to accidents reported to the state Department of Transportation by law enforcement agencies. The number of accidents involving deer overall in the state also increased, going from 16,338 in 2009 to 16,947 last year. The state had seen a slight decrease in deer-related crashes since 14 people were killed in 2007. Ten people died in deer-related crashes in 2008. The period from October into November is one of two peak times for deer-related crashes due to the deer-mating season, said Jeff Pritzl, district wildlife supervisor for the northeast region of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Deer will be on the move literally 24 hours a day in search of a receptive doe who is ready to breed," he said. That creates more driving hazards as deer cross roadways. The second spike in crashes occurs in May and June as fawns leave their mothers to make way for new offspring, Pritzl said. "They're on their own for the first time and moving across new roads. It's the young and inexperienced deer that are subject to most of the accidents," he said. "Thankfully, car-deer accidents are a very small percentage of the total number of accidents." In 2010, deer-related accidents accounted for about 16 percent of all reported crashes statewide. However, deaths from those crashes made up only 2 percent of all 562 traffic-related fatalities. Pritzl said many factors impact the number of such crashes, including the number of deer in Wisconsin, whether the area is rural or urban and the type of vehicle on the road. "Obviously, there's a higher risk factor for someone on a motorcycle," he said. In the lone death recorded last year in Brown County, Carl Landgraf, 53, of Sheboygan was killed in May after his motorcycle hit a deer on southbound Interstate 43 near Brown County MM in Ledgeview.
Landgraf was riding with his wife, Cathryn Landgraf, 51, and both were thrown from the motorcycle. His wife died when she was hit by a vehicle, but her death is recorded as a pedestrian accident because it occurred after the initial deer impact. Both wore helmets.
Before Landgraf's death, Brown County did not have a deer-related traffic fatality since 2005, according to the DOT. Wisconsin has an estimated 1.2 million to 1.6 million deer, Pritzl said. The population is above goal targets in about two-thirds of the state, he added. A study is under way that could be used to look at the relationship between accident numbers and the deer population, Pritzl said. State Patrol Sgt. Jeff Nelson said deer-related accidents in the region have already started to increase this season. Motorists must be alert, drive at reasonable speeds and scan the road, he said. "If one deer runs across in front of you, there's probably two more waiting to cross," he said. Many drivers, he noted, are distracted by cell phones and other electronic devices. Areas with a history of deer-related crashes typically have yellow signs posted in a diamond shape with a black image of a jumping deer. However, that has little impact if motorists don't follow the necessary precautions, Nelson said. "If you're in an area with a high deer population, drive without your cruise control on. It tends to make you more aware of your speed and you're quicker to react or slow down," he said.