BOISE— If you have ever struck a deer with your vehicle, you know it can be a costly collision.
The Idaho Department of Transportation reports drivers in Idaho spend $483,000 each year in costs related to colliding with wildlife.
Collisions are also on the rise, according to Idaho Fish and Game.
“We are increasingly concerned about deer vehicle collisions,” said Fish and Game Wildlife Program Coordinator Gregg Servheen.
Servheen says the collisions cause negative impacts to hunters, puts stress on habitat, and makes driving a general public safety concern.
“Even if we don’t change the roads, we are putting more cars and trucks on those roads,” he said.
Healthy deer populations are important. For example, Idahoans like to hunt, so naturally the game needs to be there to satisfy the public.
New this year, Idaho Fish and Game provided an online way for drivers to report a collision with a deer or other animal. The idea is to track the data, and find out if and where an animal crossing might be needed in the future.
“It's a classic case of deer moving to their winter range, having to cross that highway, and we have been whacking them for years,” Servheen said.
Servheen sees the statistics as worrisome.
On Tuesday, he used a computer graph to explain his reasoning.
Decorated with blue and yellow dots, Servheen's graphic represents 5,000 animals reported killed by a vehicle in 2012.
Servheen believes that number is not even half of what is really going on in Idaho.
“We would figure probably that’s a bare minimum number because we are just beginning to get a full count across the entire state, so that’s the least smallest number that are hit,” he said.
In response to the ever-increasing number of wildlife fatalities, the Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game along with the Idaho Transportation Department constructed 2,785 feet of fencing to funnel wildlife through a crossing below Highway 21, in 2010.
However, the big question is; do these crossings really work?
“Yes, absolutely they work,” said Servheen.
Fish and Game say they know the fence works because motion sensor cameras track the animals that pass through the funnel. They also say wildlife experts believe hundreds, if not thousands, of deer, elk and other animals have passed through the crossing -- which means they are not using Highway 21.
Still, Servheen says more can be done to help prevent deer vs. vehicle problems.
“It’s important that they be located in the proper place, and that is why we are after the information about where animals are being hit and what time of the season and what kind of animals,” he said.
Idaho Fish and Game wants drivers that accidentally strike an animal to report the accident on the department's website.
That's because the more dots Servheen has on his computer screen, the better he and other wildlife officials can determine if another crossing is needed in Idaho, and where to put it.
Servheen says it’s not just about impacts to hunters, or even what it does to deer populations. He says every time a driver strikes an animal on the road, it can cause serious injury or even be fatal.
“Many people think you just hit a deer no big deal, but I think that really puts it into perspective that you could not only be injured you could be killed,” said Servheen.
The state's latest game crossing is being completed now near Coeur d'Alene on Highway 95.