Ball State study: Deer ready to overrun some urban areas

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BALL STATE UNIVERSITY, IN — A new analysis by a Ball State University researcher has found many Midwestern communities could soon be overrun with white-tailed deer because more than twice as many fawns survive in urban areas compared to rural.

Tim Carter, a biology professor, says young deer are more than twice as likely to survive in an urbanized area as compared to rural. Ball State researchers spent 2013-14 tracking deer around the area of the Bloomington, Indiana.

They collared 119 fawns with expandable radio collars, using radio telemetry to locate the animals and determine their survival rates.

In rural areas, hungry coyotes caused 92 percent of the deaths of eight-week-old fawns. In urban areas, vehicle collision is the leading cause of death of young deer, about 17 percent.

“We were very surprised by the sheer number of fawns able to reach adulthood in an urban area than in rural areas,” Carter said. “If it seems like everywhere you turn there is a deer, it’s because they are surviving at very high rates. But that is because of a variety of reasons, including fewer predators and the lack of hunting.”

Carter likened the growing deer population to a ticking time bomb due to increased interactions with humans, including property and vehicle damage.

An annual analysis by auto insurance giant State Farm estimates that the current odds of a U.S. motorist hitting a deer, elk or moose are 1 in 169, the same as in 2014. The crashes have become more expensive, averaging more than $4,100 per claim, up 6 percent from last year, according to the insurance firm.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that 200 people die from collisions with deer each year, and a recent IIHS study found that 60 percent of people killed were not wearing a seatbelt.

“Simply, the deer are having young ones that are able to survive in large numbers and then breed in a never-ending cycle,” Carter said. “The numbers of white-tailed deer will expand at a high rate unless such communities manage to control the populations. It is already a hot topic because many people are tired of dealing with the animals that seem to be everywhere and causing problems.”