In the early 1900s, there were only 500,000 white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, in the United States (Insurance Institute for Highway and Safety, 2004). Since the settlers arrived, hunts for meat and hides have nearly caused the extinction of the white-tailed deer species. The beginning of the twentieth century marked a turning point in the human drive to save the deer. States began to limit hunting and preserve open space, which would have otherwise been used for agriculture. Today, white-tailed deer have exceeded their carrying capacity; a recorded 15 million deer populate the United States. Overpopulation of this species and its interactions with the environment have created a variety of problems, including excessive deer-automobile collisions (DVCs). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (2004) statistics show that around 1.5 million United States vehicles collide with deer every year, causing vehicle damage costs of over one billion dollars and nearly 14,000 injuries. State Farm announced that there are 200 DVC-related deaths yearly, which is likely to rise with a 7.7 percent increase in the number of DVCs in just one year, from 2011 to 2012 (Luedke, 2012). DVCs are the greatest concern related to deer around the country, especially in particular deer-abundant states.
In Virginia, the number of DVCs has increased substantially, as overpopulation of deer leads to a higher probability of such incidences. Reportedly, Virginia has the seventh highest number of DVCs in the United States. In Fairfax County alone, the total number of DVCs affecting people ranges from 18,000 to 25,000 a year (Hosnett et. al, 2008). The increasing number of DVCs is resulting in extreme costs. The average insurance claim of DVC- related injuries is evaluated to be $11,000 with every DVC. The deer overpopulation is leading to a decrease in road safety and an increase in insurance costs.
The damages to local and regional biodiversity are severe. The large population of deer jeopardizes the existence of native crops due its massive feedings. The Superintendent of Administration of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority declares that white-tailed deer eat all the woody plant growth in their reach, and have eliminated habitats (Hosnett et. al, 2008). The amount of available forage in the environment cannot sustain the current white-tailed deer population; thus, they have no choice but to venture into and forage in gardens and lawns to find sufficient food. This shift in feeding zones not only ruins private property, but also decreases economic growth as the plants that were originally intended to be sold are being browsed upon by deer. Ultimately, the abounding deer browsing will result in the endangerment of native plant species and the rise in costs to maintain them for human use.
Deer censusing is necessary in determining the population of deer in specific areas to develop proper deer density management. Management programs based on...