Every whitetail hunters knows the feeling.
You’re going through the woods when some sound catches your ear. You look, and there’s a white tail, standing at attention, or even bounding away.
When a deer puts its tail up like a sail at full mast, it’s signaling other deer that danger may be around. That’s long been known.
What researchers just recently realized, quite by accident, is that they might be able to use that to reduce deer-vehicle collisions.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation did a three-year study looking at ways to reduce such accidents. They put out posts covered with “wildlife warning” reflectors in areas with high incidents of collisions, to see if their presence made a difference.
They covered some reflectors with black canvas bags and some with white canvas bags as controls.
And what happened? While putting reflectors in place helped some – and covering them with black bags completely neutralized them – the presence of the white bags did more to limit collisions than anything.
One of the researchers, Corinna Riginos, told the Associated Press the difference the white bags made was significant enough to be considered “pretty stunning, actually.” She said it could be because deer associate white – like their tails – with potential danger.
White bags are cheap, too.
According to the Associated Press, the reflector portion of the study tested the effectiveness of Streiter-Lite red glass “deer delineators” that cost $8,000 to $10,000 per mile to install, not factoring maintenance. The white bags, made from 10-ounce cotton duck canvas, cost $1.50 each.
Utah’s Department of Transportation has already suggested it might look into using white to eliminate some of the 6,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions it experiences annually.
Might Pennsylvania be wise to do the same? This state annually ranks in the top five nationally in terms of a driver’s likelihood of hitting a deer on the road, according to accident statistics put together by State Farm . In 2014, a Pennsylvania driver’s chances of hitting a deer were 1 in 76, it said.
The only states ranked above Pennsylvania were, in order, West Virginia, South Dakota, Iowa and Michigan.
It sounds like time to bring on the white bags.