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Growing deer population could prove hazardous in Armstrong

| Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
A juvenile deer grazes near the Freeport southbound exit along Route 28. Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Two juvenile deer graze near the Freeport southbound exit along Route 28. Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013

An increase in Armstrong County's deer population could lead to more collisions between deer and vehicles.

Pennsylvania Game Commission officials report the deer population has risen by nearly 40 percent since 2008 in its zone 2D Wildlife Management Unit, which encompasses all of Armstrong County and portions of Indiana, Jefferson, Clarion, Venango, Butler and Westmoreland counties.

Game commission officials estimate the deer population in zone 2D to be 113,774 this year, which is an increase of 11,334 from 2012, according to game commission press secretary Travis Lau.

“As far as we know, the deer population is increasing in an area that's not too big, geographically,” Lau said. “The simplest explanation is more deer are being seen because there are more deer in the area.”

East Franklin Police Sgt. William Evans said police have been responding to more deer collisions this year than in the past.

“We've had three deer strikes in the last two weeks, which is unusual, since these accidents don't normally start until the end of October, during their annual rut,” Evans said. “I don't know if it's the weather, or any other reason, but I've definitely seen more deer this year.”

According to a report from the Insurance Information Institute, approximately one in 76 Pennsylvania motorists are likely to hit a deer with their vehicle. The state is ranked the fifth highest state with risks for deer collisions, behind South Dakota, Iowa, Montana and West Virginia.

In West Virginia, which has the highest risk for deer strikes in the United States, approximately 1 in 44 motorists are likely to collide with a deer, according to the institute's report.

Approximately 1.23 million deer-vehicle collisions occurred across the United States between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, causing more than $4 billion in vehicle damage, according to a study by State Farm Insurance.

During that time, the average claim was $3,305, according to the study.

Lau said more deer could be heading toward the roadway in the zone because of land development claiming more of their habitat.

“Deer spend most of their time in the heaviest cover they can find and don't move very much,” Lau said. “Maybe development is pushing them away, or a number of any other factors.

“There isn't really any single driving force, on a year-to-year basis, causing them to move more.”

Lau said the Game Commission is unsure what is causing the deer population to grow but said the increase may have to do with a concurrent, seven-day buck and doe hunting season.

When buck and doe hunting seasons do not run concurrently, properly licensed hunters can take a buck and a doe during their respective season. But, during the concurrent season, hunters can take only one deer, Lau said.

This year, hunting season for hunters using regular firearms runs Dec. 2 through 14 for antlered and antlerless deer, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission's website.

Lau said the average hunter has less time to spend in the woods, making it harder to bring home a deer.

“There was a time where someone could take off work for the entire deer season, but that's not the case anymore for some hunters,” Lau said. “The shrinking amount of time a hunter has in the woods probably factors into the higher deer population.”

Evans said motorists need to remain aware of approaching deer and areas where the animals could be prevalent. If a motorist collides with a deer and their vehicle is not drivable, or the deer is in the roadway, they should immediately call 911.

“We need to make sure the deer is removed before any other motorists hit it,” Evans said.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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