How many deer are in the City & Monroe County?

When talking about deer, many people want numbers. How many deer live in the community? This is a tough question to answer. We don't know exactly how many deer there are in Bloomington and Monroe County. The IDNR does not engage in a deer census. Instead of looking at the number of deer per square mile, modern deer management looks at trends and the effects of deer overabundance, such as deer health, ecosystem health and deer-human conflicts. If the deer are healthy, the forest is healthy, deer-vehicle collisions are not increasing and people are not complaining about deer, it does not matter how many deer there are per square mile -- the management objectives have been met. While the Task Force considered quantification techniques such as aerial counts, thermal infrared photography, drive and pellet counts and spotlight techniques, these techniques are variously expensive, labor-intensive and, according to the IDNR, wholly unnecessary.

POPULATION TRENDS

To track population trends in the Indiana deer herd, the IDNR relies on harvest and deer-auto collision figures. These trends show that the deer population is growing throughout the State, but has been stable within Monroe County in recent years.

Deer Harvest - Monroe County
In Monroe County, the number of deer harvested over the last 12 years has oscillated but appears to be relatively stable (See Appendix II). In 2000, 1,368 deer were harvested; that number increased to 1,623 in 2004, dropped to 1,272 in 2005 and increased to 1,480 in 2009 - the year in which resident complaints increased. In 2011, the harvest figure was 1,361, very close to what it was 12 years ago. Insofar as the vast majority of hunting occurs in more rural areas of the county, not within city limits, these figures most accurately reflect trends in the deer herd outside the city.

Deer-Vehicle Collisions

Local deer-vehicle collisions have remained pretty stable over the last handful of years. Importantly, this collision data is recorded only when an accident incurs $1,000 in property damage. Not surprisingly, most of these recorded collisions occur on high-speed, high-volume roads, not on low-speed, low-volume residential neighborhood roads. Deer-vehicle collisions are a function of many factors, not only deer density. Other factors such as driver behavior, reporting practices, traffic speed and traffic volume inform the number of deer-vehicle collisions.

Monroe County

In Monroe County, reported deer-vehicle collisions increased from 41 in 2000 to approximately 110 in 2011. This increase could be due to better reporting, more deer, more cars on the road, more roads or a host of many other factors.

From 2008-2011, total county crash figures have remained relatively stable:

Bloomington and surrounding area
From 2008-2011, crashes within Bloomington's city limits and the immediate area around the city have also remained stable:

Most of the $1,000+ recorded crashes in the city occur on high-volume roads such as State Road 46 Bypass near Lake Griffy, the State Road 46-State Road 446 intersection and near the Renwick development. Most deer-vehicle collisions occur during rut (mating) season, October-December; most did not result in injury to humans; none resulted in death to a human; and most of the property damage ranged from $1,001 to $2,000.

While helpful, this information does not account for traffic volume. A more descriptive analysis would control for volume - how many accidents occur per million miles travelled. In the absence of that information, it is difficult to know if accidents are happening because there are more deer in the area or just more cars on the road. (See "Measurement and Monitoring" for recommendations for more informational ways to track deer-vehicle collisions. )

There are a number of driving tips one can follow to help avoid a collision with a deer. Please refer to Driving Tips.