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Does deer hunting reduce car accidents?

Effective Methods for Controlling Population and Reducing Accidents
Will scientists discover a non-lethal way to keep this deer from leaping out in front of your car?
Will scientists discover a non-lethal way to keep this deer from leaping out in front of your car?
Belknap Photographic/iStockphoto

While conventional hunting is ineffective for controlling deer populations and reducing deer-car accidents, that isn't true for all types of hunting. Harvesting bucks won't lower the number of fawns that are born in the spring, but hunters can effectively keep the population down by targeting does [source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources].

Many state fish and game departments have implemented what are called quality deer management programs to reestablish a healthy male-to-female ratio within wild deer herds [source: Delaware Wild Lands]. As part of these programs, buck hunting is severely restricted in many areas, and special "antlerless" hunts have been created to harvest female deer.

In the suburbs, where deer have become an annoyance as well as deadly threats to drivers, special bowhunts, sharpshooter hunts and other managed hunts have been authorized to take down female deer without putting the neighborhood at risk from stray gunfire. The state of Maryland claims that lethal car-deer accidents have declined by more than half in Montgomery County since the implementation of managed deer hunts [source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources].

Animal rights advocates argue that there are effective alternatives to "lethal deer management" [source: Humane Society USA]. Land management is a good place to start. The very nature of suburbs makes them prime real estate for deer. Deer thrive on an unnaturally abundant diet of plants, flowers and grasses that are not available in the wild.

If people want to keep deer off their lawns and out of their streets, then they can start by landscaping with plants that deer don't like and designing suburban developments with more trees and less lawns [source: In Defense of Animals].

Another non-lethal method, which has been used with some success, is injecting does with a temporary contraceptive called porcine zona pellucida (PZP). In a PZP trial by the National Institute of Standards and Technology from 1997 to 2000, they were able to cut the number of annual births by 72 percent [source: NIST]. In a suburban experiment, the contraceptive was used in New York's Fire Island National Seashore to reduce an intrusive deer population by 60 percent [Source: Kirkpatrick]. Given time, perhaps scientists will be able to refine these methods and develop other ways to keep deer safely away from the roadways.

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