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Deer numbers declining in Kentucky

BY DANIEL PAXTON dpaxton@paducahsun.com

Both insurance and hunting statistics indicate Kentucky citizens are coming into contact with deer at a higher frequency than ever before.  The deer hunting season has produced record number of deer harvests two years in a row, while State Farm notes that claims made for deer-vehicle collisions have increased in the state, which ranks 16th in the nation for such claims.

David Yancy, Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife deer biologist, does not believe these numbers indicate an increase in deer populations statewide and, in fact, populations have actually been decreasing slowly for several years.

Yancy believes the record number of deer taken during hunting seasons has less to do with the deer population and more to do with the weather.

"Most people only go hunting opening weekend of gun season. Relatively dry weekends the last two Novembers are probably the biggest driver of record deer harvest," noted Yancy. He said the bulk of deer harvests takes place in the relatively short modern gun season, as opposed to the longer archery season, and favorable conditions can have a big impact on hunter participation.

"Deer populations have been stable, although we do have fewer deer now than we did 10 or 12 years ago," said Yancy, who went on to say that deer populations are still higher than preferred levels.

High deer populations can have negative impact by way of deer-vehicle collisions and damage to crops. Deer-vehicle collisions have been particularly numerous in Kentucky.

According to State Farm, Kentucky ranked 16th in the nation in 2013 in claims made for deer-vehicle collisions with an estimated total of 24,517. This is a jump from 2012 when Kentucky ranked 20th with 23,995 claims. State Farm calculates the chances of any motorist in America colliding with a deer in the next 12 months at 1 in 174, down 4.3 percent from 1 in 167 in 2012. This reflects the fact that although the number of claims has increased, the number of licensed drivers has increased at a faster rate.

Contact Daniel Paxton, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8667.

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