Deer-vehicle collisions are common, dangerous, and costly examples of human-wildlife conflict in the U.S. Targeted removal (sharpshooting) of deer that linger on the side of the road has proven effective in reducing such conflict in urban areas.
USDA Forest Service research wildlife biologist John Kilgo, along with collaborators, tested this strategy in a secure, wooded area that is off-limits to the public.
The scientists conducted the study in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site – a 193,000 acre national environmental research park in South Carolina that supports a variety of forests types and a low-density deer population along with a commuting workforce of about 11,500 people.
The team selected eight stretches of roads where collisions are common. They conducted targeted removal on four roads during the spring and fall of 2015 and 2016. They left four roads untouched as an experimental control. “The control allows us to determine more clearly that any reduction we saw was due to the sharpshooting rather than other factors,” adds Kilgo.
Overall, sharpshooting removal of deer from roadways was effective at reducing collisions. The targeted removal resulted in an estimated 39 percent reduction in accidents on treated roads. “This can be an important management tool for areas where recreational hunting is not a feasible or desirable means to control deer populations,” adds Kilgo.