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Car-deer crashes on the decline in Kent County - Oct 31st, 2013 - Local

(Mlive)--This is one case where being No. 2 means life is a little less dangerous.

Kent County perennially has taken the top spot of any Michigan county for cardeer crashes. In 2012, it dropped to 1,572 crashes. That’s now second behind Oakland County’s 1,683 crashes.

The decline is part of a statewide trend, since at least 2009, toward fewer car-deer crashes.

One insurer, State Farm, said the decline means any individual Michigan driver now has a 1-in-92 chance of hitting a deer, compared to a 1-in-81 chance last year.

So what’s behind the drop in collisions with Bambi?

Brent Rudolph, deer program leader for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, has a few ideas.

“It’s probably a few things. For about the past decade, deer numbers in southern Michigan (essentially, from Muskegon to Saginaw Bay and south) have stabilized or declined,” he said.

Rudolph believes drivers are less likely to report a collision now than in the past. Also, there are fewer officers on the road to take reports than there were a decade ago.

DNR analysts estimate the deer population in southern Michigan is about 840,000, with about 1.75 million in the state.

The population has dropped variably across the state’s southern regions, partly because of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, Rudolph said. There was an outbreak in the summer of 2012 that brought down deer numbers.

Deer experts and police, however, warn that drivers still need to be vigilant. October and November are the two most dangerous months in Michigan for car-deer crashes because of the deer mating season and hunting, which put bucks and does on the move.

Mike Cordes, of the DeWitt area, found out the hard way.

About two weeks ago, he was driving west on I-96 near M-6 when he became a statistic.

“I was driving 70 mph and he jumped right out in front of me,” Cordes said of the deer that mangled the right front end of the SUV he drives for work.

“I saw it just enough before I thought, ‘Oh crap,’” and the damage was done, he said.

It was the second deer Cordes has struck in the past several years. About five years ago, he totaled another work vehicle by hitting a deer.

Rudolph said drivers need to be on the lookout for deer near roads.

“There are still lots of crashes. There’s still plenty of deer,” Rudolph said. “And many suburbs and neighborhoods are still seeing increases of deer.”

Counties such as Kent, Oakland, Ottawa, Clinton, Jackson, Ingham and Lapeer historically have had high numbers of car-deer crashes for fairly obvious reasons.

“There’s quite a f ew people and lots of roads,” Rudolph said.

State Farm agents say Michigan is in 10th place for states where drivers are most likely to have a car-deer crash.

West Virginia is the top state, with a 1-in-41 chance of hitting a deer, followed by Montana, Iowa, South Dakota and Pennsylvania.

In Michigan, car-deer crashes caused 1,329 injuries last year and eight deaths. There were 48,918 crashes in 2012, down from 53,592 in 2011.