February 2005 // Volume 43 // Number 1 // Research in Brief // 1RIB5

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Assessment of Negative Economic Impacts from Deer in the Northeastern United States

Abstract
We conducted a survey and literature review to identify affected stakeholders and gauge economic impacts from unwanted deer-human interactions in the northeastern United States. We estimated an annual economic impact from deer-vehicle collisions and deer depredation to select high-value agricultural, grain, and nursery crops, and residential and commercial landscaping for 13 northeastern United States at nearly $640 million. Our results can be used by Extension and wildlife professionals to inform and involve stakeholders participating in deer management decisions, tailor management strategies to mitigate deer-human conflicts, and assist policy makers when weighing the benefits against the negative impacts from deer.


David Drake
Extension Wildlife Specialist
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, New Jersey
drake@aesop.rutgers.edu

Joseph B. Paulin
Extension Program Associate
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, New Jersey
paulin@aesop.rutgers.edu

Paul D. Curtis
Extension Wildlife Specialist
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
pdc1@cornell.edu

Daniel J. Decker
Director, Cornell AES
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
djd6@cornell.edu

Gary J. San Julian
Extension Wildlife Specialist
Penn State University
University Park, Pennsylvania
gsjulian@psu.edu


Introduction

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are perhaps the most recognizable wildlife species in the United States. The economic benefits of hunting, viewing, and photographing deer are in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually (United States Fish and Wildlife Service, 2002). Deer provide numerous ecological benefits as well (Putman, 1988).

Evidence suggests that deer are also causing negative impacts. For example, Conover, Pitt, Kessler, DuBow, and Sandborn (1995) estimated that more than one million deer-vehicle collisions occur annually in the United States, costing over $1.1 billion in repair costs and resulting in 29,000 human injuries and 211 human fatalities. Nationwide, deer have been recognized to cause more damage to agricultural crops than any other vertebrate wildlife species (Conover & Decker, 1991), costing farmers more than an estimated $100 million each year (Conover, 1997; Conover, 1998).

It is critical that stakeholders experiencing unwanted deer interactions be included and involved in management decisions if deer management is to be successful (Messmer, Cornicelli, Decker, & Hewitt, 1997). Arming decision makers with factual information is also vital because many deer management decisions are made in the policy arena or are politically influenced (Curtis & Hauber, 1997).

Therefore, the objective of our study was to identify affected stakeholders and the extent of negative impacts resulting from unwanted deer-human interactions in the northeastern United States. Understanding affected groups and impacts will enable Extension and wildlife professionals to tailor outreach, research, and management options to better manage overabundant deer populations. Increased understanding of the stakeholders and impacts will also aid policy makers who need to evaluate the magnitude of issues as they weigh one constituency group against another.

Methods

During the fall of 2001 we gathered secondary data for 13 northeastern states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. We surveyed, via e-mail and telephone, Extension specialists, wildlife biologists at state wildlife agencies, and personnel at state Departments of Transportation. Our survey asked recipients for economic data on deer-vehicle collisions, deer damage to high-value agriculture (i.e., fruits and vegetables), grain crops, nursery stock, and commercial and residential landscaping. We had a 100% response rate because we contacted survey recipients until they either responded with data or informed us that no data existed. We also performed a literature review and gathered data from each state's agricultural statistic service to supplement data on impacts from the e-mail and phone surveys.

We reported straight loss figures for deer-vehicle collisions and residential/commercial landscape depredation. For example, we gathered data on the number of deer-vehicle collisions from each state of interest and multiplied number of collisions by a nation-wide average repair cost to arrive at a total estimated cost per state from deer-vehicle collisions. To determine the cost of deer depredation to high-value agriculture, grain, and nursery crops, we gathered data from each state of interest and calculated an average total production value for specific crops. For states where we had no basis for a loss estimate, we subtracted 1% from the average total production value. We chose a 1% loss estimate because it was as conservative a loss estimate (whole number) as possible but still allowed for nominal levels of depredation. A higher loss estimate was used for states where we either had published research or personal knowledge from wildlife professionals to support higher loss estimates.

Results

Deer-Vehicle Collisions

The total estimated annual vehicle damage from deer-vehicle collisions for the 13 states surveyed was $390,594,000, ranging from a low of $592,000 for Delaware to a high of $150,000,000 for Pennsylvania. All states except Connecticut, Vermont, and West Virginia reflect collision data for 2000. Due to availability, 1986 data were used for Connecticut, and 1991 data were used for Vermont and West Virginia. An average repair bill of $2,000 per collision was used to estimate the economic impact from deer-vehicle collisions, according to the Insurance Information Institute <http://www.iii.org/individuals/auto/lifesaving/deercar/>. The data do not include costs of human fatalities associated with deer collisions or costs associated with disposal of deer carcasses.

Table 1.
Economic Impact from Deer-Vehicle Collisions for 13 Northeastern United States, 1986-2000

State

Economic Impact from Deer-Vehicle Collisions ($)

Source

Connecticut

4,846,000

Romin and Bissonette, 1996

Delaware

462,000

Delaware Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, 20011

Maine

9,000,000

Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, 20012

Maryland

28,000,000

Maryland State Highway Commission, 20013

Massachusetts

6,000,000

Massachusetts Dept. of Fish and Wildlife4

New Hampshire

2,400,000

New Hampshire Dept. of Fish and Game, 20015

New Jersey

38,000,000

New Jersey Dept. of Transportation, 20016

New York

120,000,000

Cornell Cooperative Extension, 20017

Pennsylvania

150,000,000

Penn State Cooperative Extension, 20018

Rhode Island

1,400,000

Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife, 20019

Vermont

3,028,000

Romin and Bissonette, 1996

Virginia

8,354,000

Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, 200110

West Virginia

19,030,000

Romin and Bissonette, 1996

Total

390,520,000

 

1 K. Reynolds, personal communication, October, 2001.
2 G. Lavigne, personal communication, October, 2001.
3 B. Branch, personal communication, October, 2001.
4 B. Woytek, personal communication, October, 2001.
5 K. Adams, personal communication, October, 2001.
6 C. Griggs, personal communication, October, 2001.
7 D. J. Decker, personal communication, October, 2001.
8 G. J. San Julian, personal communication, October, 2001.
9 L. Suprock, personal communication, October, 2001.
10 M. Knox, personal communication, October, 2001.

High-Value Agricultural Depredation

The estimated annual loss to high-value agricultural crops for the 13 states was $94,374,840, ranging from a low of $27,450 for Rhode Island to a high of $48,205,006 for New York. High-value agricultural crops included fresh market and processed vegetables, including but not limited to snap beans, sweet corn, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and peppers. Apples and peaches were also included as a high-value crop.

An average total production value for high-value crops of interest for the years 1998-2000 was compiled for most states. Due to data availability, total production values were averaged for the years 1994-1999 for Delaware and 1997-1999 for New Jersey, and single years were used for Maryland (1996) and Pennsylvania (1995). Once total production values were compiled, economic losses from deer ranging from 10% to 20% were subtracted for Maryland (McNew & Curtis, 1997), New Jersey (Drake & Grande, 2002), New York (P. D. Curtis, personal communication, December 12, 2001) and Pennsylvania (G. J. San Julian, personal communication, December 12, 2001). For the other states, where documentation about deer depredation was lacking, a 1% damage estimate was subtracted from each state's total production value.

Table 2.
Average Estimated Economic Impact from Deer Depredation to Select High-Value Agricultural Crops for 13 Northeastern United States, 1994-2000

State

Deer Depredation to Select High-Value Ag. Crops ($)

Source

Connecticut

136,934

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

Delaware

375,966

Delaware Agricultural Statistics Summary, 2001

Maine

138,813

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

Maryland

11,464,000

McNew and Curtis, 1997

Massachusetts

329,454

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

New Hampshire

114,287

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

New Jersey

15,155,270

2000 New Jersey Agriculture Annual Report, 2001

New York

48,205,006

New York Agricultural Statistics, 2001

Pennsylvania

17,506,294

Pennsylvania Agricultural Statistics, 2001

Rhode Island

27,450

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2001

Vermont

105,523

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

Virginia

580,100

Virginia Agricultural Statistical Service, 2002

West Virginia

208,743

West Virginia Agricultural Statistics, 2001

Total

94,347,840

 

Grain Crop Depredation

The estimated annual loss to grain crops for the 13 surveyed states was $77,213,417, ranging from a low of $14,270 for Rhode Island to a high of $26,476,000 for Maryland. Grain crops included corn (silage and grain), soybeans, wheat, and oats.

An average total production value for the grain crops of interest was compiled for the years 1998-2000 for most states. Due to data availability, total production values were averaged for the years 1997-1999 for New Jersey and 1995-1996 for Pennsylvania, and a single year's production value was used for Maryland (1996). A 5% loss value was subtracted from the total production value for New Jersey (Drake & Grande, 2002), New York (P. D. Curtis, personal communication, December 12, 2001), and Pennsylvania (G. J. San Julian, personal communication, December 12, 2001). The loss value for Maryland was cited from McNew and Curtis (1997). For all other states where documentation about deer depredation was lacking, a 1% loss estimate was used.

Table 3.
Average Estimated Economic Impact from Deer Depredation to Select Grain Crops for 13 Northeastern United States, 1995-2000

State

Deer Depredation to Select Grain Crops ($)

Source

Connecticut

162,400

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

Delaware

867,937

Delaware Agricultural Statistics Summary, 2001

Maine

167,816

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

Maryland

26,476,000

McNew and Curtis, 1997

Massachusetts

130,283

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

New Hampshire

81,253

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

New Jersey

2,073,030

2000 New Jersey Agriculture Annual Report, 2001

New York

18,699,391

New York Agricultural Statistics, 2001

Pennsylvania

25,738,984

Pennsylvania Agricultural Statistics, 2001

Rhode Island

14,270

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

Vermont

446,703

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

Virginia

2,252,124

Virginia Agricultural Statistical Service, 2002

West Virginia

103,226

West Virginia Agricultural Statistics, 2001

Total

77,213,417

 

Nursery Stock Depredation

The estimated annual economic loss from deer depredation to nursery stock was $27,878,180, ranging from a low of $13,660 for Vermont to a high of $13,628,950 for New Jersey. An average total production value for nursery stock was compiled for the years 1997-2000. A 5% loss estimate was subtracted from the total production value for New Jersey (Drake & Grande, 2002), New York (P. D. Curtis, personal communication, December 12, 2001), and Pennsylvania (G. J. San Julian, personal communication, December 12, 2001). For all other states where documentation about deer depredation was lacking, a 1% loss estimate was used. 

Table 4.
Average Estimated Economic Impact from Deer Depredation to Nursery Stock for 13 Northeastern United States, 1997-2000

State

Deer Depredation to Select Grain Crops ($)

Source

Connecticut

778,190

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

Delaware

No data available

 

Maine

35,020

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

Maryland

No data available

 

Massachusetts

227,650

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

New Hampshire

69,010

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

New Jersey

13,628,950

2000 New Jersey Agriculture Annual Report, 2001

New York

8,750,000

Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station

Pennsylvania

4,303,200

Pennsylvania Agricultural Statistics, 2001

Rhode Island

72,500

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

Vermont

13,660

New England Agricultural Statistics, 2002

Virginia

No data available

 

West Virginia

No data available

 

Total

27,878,180

 

Residential/Commercial Landscape Depredation

Data were available for only New York and were estimated based on a study by Sayre, Decker, and Good (1992). The estimated annual loss to residential and commercial ornamentals for New York was $49,000,000.

Discussion 

We estimated an annual economic impact from deer-vehicle collisions and deer damage to select agricultural crops, nursery stock, and commercial and residential landscaping for 13 northeastern states at nearly $640 million. We suggest that this annual estimate is conservative for a number of reasons.

First, for many states and variables of interest where sufficient data were lacking, we used only a 1% loss estimate. The possibility is great that more than 1% of the average total production value for select high-value agricultural, grain, and nursery crops was lost annually. Losses to deer in the northeast are among the largest in the United States (Wywialowski, 1994; Stromayer & Warren, 1997).

Second, estimates of economic impact to commercial and residential landscaping are lacking for all but one of the 13 northeastern states we surveyed. However, relatively large economic losses are possible. For example, a telephone survey of 500 randomly selected suburban residents in New Jersey discovered that from 19982000, 25% of survey respondents experienced landscape damage around their residence as a result of deer (Derr, Maas, & Hartley, 2002).

Finally, because data were lacking we did not estimate damage for all crops. For example, we did not include depredation estimates for strawberries, a high-value crop that can receive heavy deer depredation.

Table 5.
Annual Estimated Economic Impact from Deer-Vehicle Collisions and Deer Damage to Select Agricultural Crops, Nursery Stock, and Commercial and Residential Landscaping for 13 Northeastern United States

Type of Impact

Economic Impact ($)

Deer-vehicle Collisions

390,520,000

High-value Agricultural Depredation

94,347,840

Grain Crop Depredation

77,213,417

Nursery Stock Depredation

27,878,180

Residential/Commercial Landscape Depredation

49,000,000

Total

638,959,437

As Extension and wildlife professionals, we can use these results to develop Web-based, written, and face-to-face outreach programming to inform and recruit affected stakeholders for involvement in the decision-making process and tailor management strategies to mitigate unwanted deer impacts. Furthermore, our results may be used to support lethal management practices where appropriate. These results can also be used by policy makers to weigh the benefits against the negative impacts from deer. More informed and involved stakeholders and policy makers will lead to more productive, coordinated decision-making, and ultimately, reduced numbers of deer-human conflicts.

References

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Conover, M. R., & Decker, D. J. (1991). Wildlife damage to crops: Perceptions of agricultural and wildlife professionals in 1957 and 1987. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 19, 46-52.

Conover, M. R., Pitt, W. C., Kessler, K. K., DuBow, T. J., & Sandborn, W. A. (1995). Review of human injuries, illnesses, and economic losses caused by wildlife in the United States. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 23, 407-414.

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