Deer-vehicle strikes in Columbia County appear to be declining for the fourth consecutive year based on the number of carcasses retrieved from roadsides.
During 2012, workers recovered 436 dead whitetails, down from 518 in 2011 and 590 in 2010, said Daniel Mayne, the field operations manager for the county’s Animal Services Department.
The highest number, 642, was recorded in 2009.
Though Mayne cautioned that roadkill recoveries don’t represent the exact number of vehicle strikes, their decline in Columbia County is consistent with a gradual stabilization of Georgia’s statewide deer herd.
For more than a decade, the fast-growing county’s blend of rural
woodlands and subdivisions made it
one of the most accident-prone in Georgia.
According to a state Department of Transportation study that compiled law enforcement reports from 2000 to 2006, Columbia County ranked fourth among the state’s 159 counties with 2,562 deer-vehicle strikes.
It trailed Gwinnett, with 2,826; Fayette, with 3,157; and Henry, with 3,595.
Whitetail deer almost vanished from Georgia in the early 1900s but were restored through restockings and management practices that began in the 1920s and gained momentum in the 1950s.
Columbia County, which had fewer than 10 deer in a 1953 wildlife study, played a role in that program because of the abundance of public land associated with the Clarks Hill Dam project launched in the 1940s.
The state’s deer herd swelled to more than 500,000 by 1980 and hit a peak of 1.4 million in 1997.
Since then, more liberal harvest limits for hunters and other factors have pushed those numbers back down to about 1 million, according to Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division.
During the 2011-12 firearms deer season, almost 280,000 licensed hunters harvested more than 340,000 whitetails.