By Ben Moger-Williams
Williston drivers are nearly three times as likely to hit a deer this year compared to last year, according to state statistics.
Maj. David LeCours, assistant director of the state Fish and Wildlife Department’s law enforcement division said 12 deer were hit by cars in Williston last year between Jan. 1 and Nov. 20. This year, in the same period, 28 car vs. deer accidents were logged, an increase of 133 percent.
“Williston is an aberration as far as the state average,” LeCours said. According to state records, car accidents involving deer are up about 16 percent over last year.
“It’s primarily the size of the herd more than anything else,” LeCours said.
Hunting restrictions implemented last year along with a mild winter have led to a greater number of deer in this part of the state, he said. Last year the department enacted regulations restricting the number of young bucks and antlerless deer that could be killed, and the Fish and Wildlife Department now estimates the deer population to be between 110,000 and 140,000.
LeCours said this time of year is traditionally when more deer are killed by vehicle hits.
“It really spikes once we get the time change in late October and the commuting hour coincides with dusk,” he said. Dusk and dawn are when many deer become active, and are more likely to stray into the road.
When a deer is struck by a car, if the animal is not killed immediately, a police officer or game warden will go to the scene and shoot the deer, LeCours said. Injured deer generally have broken legs and would not survive long after the accident anyway, he said. Deer are also highly stressed after an accident and often die from the stress alone, he said. If the person involved in the accident wants to keep the deer for food, they must seek permission from the Fish and Wildlife Department. Deer killed in this way do not count towards a person’s allotted deer ration, LeCours said. Under state law, hunters are allowed to take two deer per hunter per year.
“That’s an expensive way to get one,” LeCours said, referring to the costly vehicle damage that usually results from hitting a deer.
If the person doesn’t want the carcass and it is not too badly damaged, the department will often donate the meat to church groups or other organizations for “game suppers.”
“We’d just as soon have people eat them as let them go to waste,” LeCours said.
If the body is not salvageable for food, LeCours said, it is put into a landfill or buried in a pit.
Carol Winfield, president of the Vermont Wildlife Rescue Association said that she has had many calls from drivers who have struck deer but there is little she can do.
“I think it’s a shame but there really isn’t anyone I know of that has the resources to take on a full-grown animal,” Winfield said.
Winfield, whose organization helps wounded animals recover from their injuries, said people can take simple measures to prevent the accidents.
“A lot of those collisions could be avoided if people would take their foot off the gas and lean on their horn,” she said.
If you are involved in an accident with an animal, call the state police at 878-7111.