Caution: Deer Crossing

Caution: Deer crossing

  • Article by: KELLY JO MCDONNELL , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 23, 2011 – 12:29 AM

At this active time of the year for deer, officials and data offer a heads-up for motorists.

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Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

There are an estimated 900,000 to 1 million deer in Minnesota.

That may be good news for deer hunters this season, but it’s not good news on the roads. “Autumn is the deadliest time of the year for deer/vehicle crashes,” says Nathan Bowie, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS).

During the three years through 2010, 7,751 deer-vehicle crashes were reported to the DPS. More than one-third occurred in October and November, resulting in 19 deaths, 15 among motorcyclists.

“That 7,751 number is probably on the low end,” said Bowie. “Imagine if Triple AAA or insurance companies came in with their numbers…. The 7,751 were just the ones reported to DPS.”

In Anoka County, there were 105 deer-vehicle crashes reported last year, causing 18 injuries and one fatality. Numbers for 2011 won’t be available until early next year.

Jeff Perry, park operations and natural resources manager for Anoka County, said it’s a busy area. “Based upon the quality and quantity of favorable deer habitat relative to other metro counties, Anoka County may be one of the most active for car/deer collisions,” he said.

Deer are generally most active during twilight and darkness, he said. “Drivers should be alert and prepared to quickly react to deer that are crossing roads,” he said. “Also, if a deer is spotted along a road edge or ditch, chances are pretty good that there is more than one deer and drivers should slow down and proceed with caution.

“I think in terms of the deer population index, over time, Anoka County numbers have been high,” said Perry. “I can only speak for our larger park units, where we actually do aerial surveys and analyses.”

There are 5,000 acres in the Lino Lakes, Columbus and Centerville areas that serve as a large refuge. The deer population there has been abundant over the year. “We’ve had controlled deer hunts in eastern Anoka County over the past 20 years,” said Perry.

The Anoka County Parks office says that as the metro area has continued to expand, parks have become enclosed with roadways and developments, isolating the deer populations. Natural predators have decreased; therefore the populations are swelling, and are beyond the carrying capacity of the land.

Result: More deer. And lots of deer crossing the roads.

Kelly Jo McDonnell is a Twin Cities freelance writer.

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