Both seem to be around 20,000 a year, but the road kill number is less exact-

Females are 72% of the road kill. Human fatalities are 4 – 6 a year

Roadkill threat: Utah deer herds taking a hit. It’s possible that more of the animals are killed by vehicles than hunters. By Brent Prettyman. Salt Lake Tribune

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

27 Responses to Are more deer killed on Utah roadways than by hunters?

  1. avatar jdubya says:

    The older estimates I have seen from USU (probably from a decade ago) was 10,000 strikes per year with 90% mortality for the four footed brethren. The estimate quoted in this article is twice that which suggests the problem is getting worse, not better, even though $$ has been spent to help establish wildlife crossing corridors.

    Of course, this article also brings up the unstated question of how many deer should Utah have? The DWR and SFW have one number (which is currently not being met) while the real carrying capacity of the state may be another. The aggressive cougar killing policy of this state has removed most predators from the equation. And if there are few predators then why can’t these target numbers be met? Maybe they are wrong numbers to attempt in the first place??

    And, of course, global climate change will not be kind to Utah. Our snowpack will diminish and the temperatures will increase, making the state increasing inhospitable to huge herds of deer and elk. The DWR should realize their target numbers need to be dialed back and continue to be diminished in the coming decades.

  2. avatar jdubya says:

    Ralph,

    Sure. He pulls all of the levers of power concerning wildlife in this state. Case in point is the diminished deer hunt from 9 to 5 days. The general public likes the 9 day (two weekends) because it gives families a chance to get out in the woods and fool around. Most kills are in the first weekend. Instead of simply cutting back the number of tags and leaving the hunt at nine days which is what the DWR wanted to do (which still lets families do their thing) SFW rammed through a proposal for a 5 day hunt which was adopted as policy by the wildlife board.

    SFW only cares about making sure THEIR members get to kill as many “quality” animals as possible. Nothing else really matters.

  3. avatar foolonthehill says:

    Its no wonder the deer are fewer, since over the past 20 years I have seen most of their best winter range turned into cookie-cutter sub-divisions or luxury “ranchetes”, which also puts more people on the roads commuting. More roads=more cars=more dead deer. Yet all the state legislature can do is dream up more and more highway projects, encouraging more open spaces to be developed. Even after the realestate bubble has burst, that’s the only model they can come up with. I guess maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

  4. avatar Percy says:

    20,000 deer is a lot of venison if it could somehow be salvaged. Where I live, they will give it to a local nonprofit that has a group of captive wolves, if it’s fresh enough. Oh the irony!

  5. avatar Save bears says:

    Whats a shame, when I lived in Montana, you can’t pick up a road killed deer for any reason, and they don’t spend a lot of time picking them up, most of the time, they end up rotting on the side of the road, when they could be picked up and donated for many different purposes. I did hear there have been doing a program south of Missoula that turns them into compost..but still with the amount of animals killed it really seems a shame to let them go to waste they way they do..

  6. avatar Mike says:

    Bears- those deer don’t go to waste. Birds, coyotes, racoons and other animals eat them.

    I say drag them at least a half mile from the interstate and let the animals enjoy a feast. The problem with leaving them on the road is of course cars end up hitting other animals feeding on them or trying to.

  7. avatar Save bears says:

    Mike,

    I can assure you, there are so many, that they do go to waste, I have seen several bodies of deer, that are never fed on by scavengers.

  8. avatar Save bears says:

    But I will agree, they need to be taken away from the roads, last year, I came upon on road kill that was surrounded by 2 Bald eagles and a Golden eagle, that were hit by cars…and killed

  9. avatar Mike says:

    Wow that’s awful.

  10. Without entering the controversy directly, I think that road-killed deer should all be pulled off the margins of the road to prevent the death of additional animals.

  11. avatar Save bears says:

    Ralph,

    I agree, but other than just pulling them off the actual road, in Montana, you are not allowed to do anything with a road kill, I do wish they would update their laws to reflect the peripheral damage that can and does happen.

  12. avatar josh sutherland says:

    In the SLC valley I feel that road kill is the number one killer of deer. The area is archery only and is very brutal to hunt with almost no access and VERY STEEP. The animals are forced to winter in peoples backyards and are hit constantly. The deer herds in UT are struggling, and I feel its mainly from too many tags being issued, but they wont cut back tags because of revenue. Who knows what they are gonna do.

  13. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Question – looking for the best guess out there. After taking incredible losses year after year the deer just keep coming back to the roads and those deadly bright lights. I have spent many years out there (generally away from the road) with the deer and they can learn, just seems that the road and car thing really has their number – but why?

  14. avatar Mike says:

    My only concern with allowing people to take road kill deer for themselves is that it may instigate unethical people to intentionally run animals over. “Hey, I hit it and now I can take it”.

    I would be for some sort of regulated system that lets locals take some of the roadkill lfor themselves for food.

    Of course, what I would really like to see is some new technology applied to cars that spooks the hell out of animals and makes them stay clear of major roadways. I am sickened when I drive out west at all the dead animals. The east has nothing like that. Even your chewed up ranchlands have more wildlife.

  15. Hitting a deer is an expensive way to get a deer, but there are people who swerve to hit squirrels and other rodents.

    They don’t swerve to hit skunks!

  16. avatar Mike says:

    Ralph – If I ever saw a person who swerved to hit an animal, they better be ready for a verbal assault the likes of which they have never heard. I would never tolerate anyone in my vicinity acting that way. Same for people who take beyond the fish limit, etc.

    Really, I don’t want to believe that people do that but I suppose that is the reality in some circles.

    Skunks man, they always get the last laugh.

  17. avatar Rick says:

    In some parts of Alaska they have a system where locals can put their name on a list and when a moose is hit, they contact the person on the list and that person can then go and take that moose. They then work their way down the list as the moose are hit.

  18. avatar Save bears says:

    After hitting three deer in my lifetime, one of which almost killed me and my dog, anyone that tries to hit a deer is nothing but plain stupid! hitting a 100 pound deer at 60 miles an hour results in some massive G-Force that can and often does kill the driver of the car…it has been several years since I hit a deer, but the last one I hit on Hwy 2 in Montana, if it had of been a bit taller would have come straight through the front window of the car and I would not be here arguing with anyone!

  19. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Chi Town justice – you go Mike, you and your verbal assualting – I would like to have the video of that “situation” especially when you run into someone not so interested in being verbally assaulted by you.

  20. avatar Mike says:

    I hit one just north of Big Timber in ’06. Not a fun moment as it was a huge muley.

    My comment was more based on people with big old trucks and those cow catcher type devices. Once while on the Northfork road right on the border of Glacier I saw one of those rigs purposely swerve into a herd of mule deer that were on the side of the road. The vehicle was high enough and had one of those front metal bars.

  21. avatar Mike says:

    Talks With Bears – People who swerve to kill animals are doing two things wrong –

    1. They are acting like children
    2. They are potentially creating a hazardous traffic situation by swerving

    There’s nothing wrong with scolding children.

  22. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Great – we have a new moniker to add to your list – Mike the Scolder. I really would enjoy that video. Mike, get some rest you need it and so do I.

  23. On a similar subject: Yesterday the fifth wolf pub this year was lost to automobile traffic on a highway in eastern Germany. The highway cuts through the core territory of the resident wolf pack. Normally the area is sparsely populated and traffic volume is low but this highway is the main route to a large power plant and industrial area. People rush to/from the shift changes that mostly take place in the twilight hours. Making the situation even worse is, that this pack has it´s rendezvous site close to that road. Seems, adult wolves are more capable to cope with car traffic. Between 2004 and 2009 there had been a total of 150 accidents on this road, involving wildlife. The government now finally considers to implement a speed limit and to construct underpasses and fences. Currently there is a new technology tested in the land Brandenburg, where wildlife activates motion sensors that trigger flashlights to signal drivers the imminent danger of animals close to the road.

  24. avatar Jay says:

    Anybody recall all the incidents of methed up gas company employees driving through herds of pronghorn out in Wyoming? There are lots of scumbags out there that take joy in killing things in any form or fashion that is convenient at the time.

  25. avatar Mike says:

    Jay – I do remember those stories. The amount of pronghorn killed was incredibly disturbing.

  26. avatar Carl says:

    Savebears, I wonder how much less beef we would have to raise if we used even 10% of the road killed deer. Here is some info on the three top states for deer road kills from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009.
    Pennsylvania 105,843
    Michigan 104,561
    New York 74,958
    I’m with you lets use the meat. With state budgets being cut due to the recession several states here in the upper midwest are having to cutback on deer removal. In neighboring Wisconsin there was a push to tack on a fee to hunters license for deer roadkill removal this past year but it didn’t go very far.

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