Deer Causing A Million Vehicle Collisions Per Year In U.S. — Cougars Could Help Reduce Accidents, Says Study

The deer are responsible for causing a million animal-automobile collisions per year in the United States alone. These docile creatures cause the death of hundreds of travelers, but the number could be significantly brought down if cougars are introduced in the mix, says a new study.

It is truly hard to fathom that the doe-eyed deer with a timid demeanor and amazing sprinting ability can be one of North America’s most dangerous threat to humans. The docile and easily frightened deer is surprisingly an animal that has continually remained a big threat on the highways.

Though the deer aren’t predators, and they certainly don’t set out to murder people, there are multiple instances of fatalities caused by these creatures. Evidently, these mammals jump out in front of vehicles so often that the number of people killed by them is significantly high.

The deer are responsible for the death of a couple of hundred people per year. If that’s not alarming, the fact that these meek creatures cause more than a million vehicle collisions in a single year, should be a cause to ring the alarm bells, and start looking at methods to reduce the fatalities and accidents caused by them.

Each year the white-tailed deer causes 1.2 million vehicle collisions in the U.S., triggering more than 200 deaths, according to the Claims Journal. The species causes about 29,000 injuries that rack up a considerably large bill exceeding $1.6 billion. The costs go towards rectifying vehicle damage, treating the injured, and cleaning up the roads after the mishap.

The researchers have published their paper titled “Socioeconomic benefits of large carnivore recolonization through reduced wildlife-vehicle collisions” in the journal Conservation Letters.

How can the deer-related accidents be brought down? While building safer roads and erecting barricades are part of the solution, researchers have suggested an alternate method that might appear a little odd, but could work in the long run. Laura R. Prugh, a wildlife scientist at the University of Washington; Sophie L. Gilbert, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Idaho; and several colleagues speculate that if the eastern cougars returned to their historic range, they could keep the deer population in check.

More importantly, the reintroduction of cougars could prevent about 155 deaths per year. Statistically speaking, cougars could avoid 21,400 human injuries. Collectively, the predator could save $2.3 billion over the next three decades, reported the New York Times.

Cougars are natural predators and there have been documented instances where the creature has attacked and killed humans. However, the researchers point out that cougars could save far more lives than they take. Records indicate cougars kill less than one person per year. Simple math would indicate cougars could potentially harm or kill fewer than 30 lives, but save close to 5,000 over the next 30 years.

Cougars were commonly found in Delaware, Rhode Island, Maryland and Illinois. These four states could be considered as the predator’s historic range. However, these magnificent hunting animals were nearly wiped out from these states by the early 1990s. These creatures were systematically pushed away because they were considered dangerous.

The researchers propose that if the cougars are left alone, their species could find a natural equilibrium with the regions and help keep the deer population under control and manage it efficiently. Each cougar kills about 259 deer in its entire life averaging 6 years, reported ZME Science.

Despite the plausible and viable theory of cougars saving human lives from the “bambi plague,” the researchers admit that the emotional response to predators is one element they can’t factor in, revealed Dr. Prug.

“The idea of being killed in a car crash with a deer just doesn’t scare people the way the idea of a cougar leaping on your back in the woods does.”

[Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]