The White-Tailed Deer Problem in New Jersey
Human Health Effects
How This Emergency Affects Human Health and Safety
Along with economic, agricultural, and ecological damage, New Jersey’s deer overpopulation problem poses serious and even deadly health risks to residents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States, and the number of cases of Lyme disease reported to the CDC has increased steadily over the past 25 years. Deer ticks (also known as black-legged ticks) are so known because deer serve as their hosts, as well as humans, mice, and certain other mammals. Ticks infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorfer are the main vectors of Lyme disease.
The Environmental Protection Agency states that factors affecting the number of Lyme disease cases include changes in the populations of host species (particularly deer), which affect tick population size. Research conducted by biologist Jay F. Kelly, Ph.D. of Raritan Valley Community College, further draws clear parallels between increasing deer populations and increasing tick populations.
A 2014 article in the Journal of Medical Entomology, which states that white-tailed deer serve as the primary host for the adult black-legged tick, cites strong correlations between reported cases of Lyme disease and deer density in the community.
More information about Lyme disease is available in a New Jersey Department of Health Frequently Asked Questions document.
Every year in New Jersey, according to AAA data, more than 30,000 car accidents occur involving deer! And that’s only the accidents involving claims; many more may go unreported. State Farm, the country’s leading insurer, reports that nationwide car damage as a result of deer-related accidents is in the billions of dollars annually.
According to data by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, there were 16,905 claims for animal-related losses filed by motorists in New Jersey in 2017. Deer are the number-one animal involved in animal-related collisions. In Burlington County, for example, a deer is believed to be the cause of a multiple-motorcycle accident that resulted in a human fatality.
While these accidents are a constant hazard throughout the year, they are even more frequent throughout October and November, which is likely due to the fact that the deer mating season is in autumn.
Because New Jersey is rich in suburban areas and roadways where fields and forests meet, “deer crossing” signs are common, and the risk of a deer-related collision should be a concern for every driver. To reduce vehicular damage, injuries, and possible fatalities caused by deer-vehicle collisions, the density of our unsustainable deer population must be decreased.