Thursday, 14 July 2016

Cougars could save lives by lowering vehicle collisions with deer

Date: July 14, 2016
Source: University of Washington

You would never guess it from their soft eyes and timid demeanor, but the swift-footed deer is North America's most dangerous mammal to humans.

Each year deer cause 1.2 million vehicle collisions in the U.S., triggering more than 200 deaths, some 29,000 injuries and $1.66 billion in costs associated with vehicle damage, medical bills and road cleanup.

These staggering figures are in part because deer's natural predators -- large carnivores such as wolves and cougars -- have declined in population, leaving large ungulates like deer to reproduce mostly unchecked.

A team including University of Washington's Laura Prugh has for the first time begun to quantify the economic and social impact of bringing back large carnivores. Using cougars and their value in reducing deer-vehicle collisions as a case study, the researchers found that within 30 years of cougars recolonizing the Eastern U.S., large cats could thin deer populations and reduce vehicle collisions by 22 percent -- each year preventing five human fatalities, 680 injuries and avoiding costs of $50 million.

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