Which animal, besides man, kills more humans in the United States each year than any other?
Bears? Alligators? Cougars? El chupacabra?
Try white-tailed deer.
According to a study by the Insurance Information Institute, more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions take place in this country each year, killing more than 150 occupants and causing more than $1 billion in vehicle damage.
From 2005 to 2006, the top states for Bambi-and-Buick encounters were Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota, Texas, Indiana and South Carolina.
North Carolina's Department of Transportation does not differentiate deer from other animals in data collection, but Cliff Braam of the DOT said that out of more than 17,000 "animal crashes" reported in 2006, approximately 90 percent were deer. From 2004 to 2006, 17 people in North Carolina died as the result of deer collisions.
Which leads me to an e-mail message from Mack Moore of Rocky Mount. Moore, an avid hunter, took exception to a brief that ran Oct. 2 in The News & Observer's City & State section that mentioned the "confluence of hunting season, mating season, cooler weather and the scattering of young male deer seeking a new place to live" as reasons for the heavy highway harvest.
"How many deer have you caused to run out in front of a car?" he wrote. "Do the deer see you `take to the woods' and decide it would be better that they just give up and commit suicide rather than face your arrow? Neither hunting, hunting pressure, nor hunting season plays any part whatsoever in the estimated 17,000 deer-auto collisions in North Carolina."
Moore went on to cite development and the search for food as major causes. The rut (mating season) probably is the biggest contributor.
"That's really it," he wrote, just a tad peeved. "Food, breeding activity. And us humans driving our vehicles in areas where the deer are just trying to live."
And he's right.
A scenario hunters love to see _ a buck chasing a doe _ often ends up with the doe running across a road and getting tagged by a car and the buck merely turning to look for another doe to flirt with.
The only scenario in which I can see hunters pushing deer into roads would be those in which deer hunters use hounds in the eastern part of the state, and even then I can't see it being a major factor. Those guys don't want their hounds getting hit by traffic, and they often line the roads to catch dogs before accidents can happen.
No, hunters saved lives by killing (not "harvesting"_ I harvest vegetables, I kill deer) over 240,000 of deer last year.
Moore wrote, "The articles should mention hunting in a way that goes something like this: Thank God for hunters, for without their efforts, many more deer-auto collisions would occur, causing more property damage, higher auto insurance rates for us all, and unnecessary injuries and deaths."
Couldn't have said it better myself. Thank a deer hunter. The life he or she saves could be your own.