Wisconsin has a robust population of white-tailed deer, with an estimated population of 1.6 million deer in 2020. (Wisconsin DNR,
Deer Population Statistics and Trends)
Deer-vehicle crashes are a major safety concern for Wisconsin motorists. Over the past 5 years, reported crash data shows over 19,000 deer are killed annually by vehicles on Wisconsin roadways. With abundant deer, motorists should be aware of the potential for deer to cross roadways at any time. Most deer-vehicle collisions occur during October and November when deer are active during the breeding phase; however, collisions occur year around. Taking precautions such as driving slower during the evening and nighttime hours and scanning roadsides for deer can help prevent collisions.
Wisconsin's CKD program
Removal of car-killed deer (CKD) from Wisconsin's roadways is an important safety task. This responsibility is shared by all levels of government. WisDOT contracts with private CKD disposal services in each county for CKD along Interstates, U.S. and state highways. Counties and municipalities are responsible for disposal of deer along county highways and local roads, respectively.
Disposal along Interstates, U.S. and state highways
There are several CKD disposal methods allowed for deer remains along Interstates, U.S. and state highways. These include: removal and transport of CKD to a landfill, incinerator, or chemical digester; transport to a rendering plant in counties not affected by Chronic Wasting Disease; and roadside disposal, which involves moving deer remains out of direct view in safe zones within the highway right-of-way.
The roadside disposal policy has drastically reduced the state's CKD program costs by limiting transportation costs and landfill tipping fees. It also provides birds of prey and other wildlife important food sources. Roadside disposal is limited to the following conditions: the remains must be located within rural areas at least ¼ mile away from a residence or business; disposal does not include multiple carcasses in one location; and, disposal is outside of ditches and mowing areas.
Reporting disposal/removal contact information
When a deer is killed along roadways, motorists play an important role in assisting with the removal. Motorists should provide specific, detailed location information of the remains, such as proximity to a mile post, intersecting highway, lane direction (NB, SB, EB, WB), exit number, and address/mailbox number. The more accurate information motorists can provide, the easier it is for contractors and public works staff to locate and dispose of the remains.
To report a car-killed deer:
- If the remains are
on the active, traveled portion of a highway, call 911. These remains pose an urgent safety hazard.
- If remains are on the shoulder or otherwise
off the traveled portion of the roadway, please contact the following:
Tips to avoid deer crashes
- Slow down, eliminate distractions, and make sure all vehicle occupants are buckled up. There are fewer, less severe injuries from crashes when all vehicle occupants wear safety belts.
- Be especially vigilant in early morning and evening hours when deer are most active.
- If you find a deer looming in your headlights, don't expect it to move away from the roadway.
- Headlights can confuse a deer and cause the animal to freeze.
- Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path.
- One long blast from your vehicle's horn may frighten the deer to run away.
- If you see one deer, watch for more. Deer seldom run alone.
- If a collision with a deer is unavoidable, brake firmly and stay in your lane. Do not swerve.
- Swerving can confuse the deer as to where it should run and can also cause you to lose control of your vehicle, resulting in a more serious crash.
- If you are operating a motorcycle, slow down, brake firmly and then swerve if necessary, to avoid hitting the deer. Try to stay within your lane if possible, to avoid hitting other objects or vehicles.
If you hit a deer:
- Get your vehicle safely off the road, if possible, and call law enforcement.
- Be prepared to describe your location to assist law enforcement.
- Stay buckled-up
inside your vehicle. Walking along the highway is very dangerous as you could be struck by another vehicle.
Do not attempt to move an injured deer.
Additionally, motorists are reminded to move over or slow down when approaching stopped emergency responders, tow trucks and highway maintenance vehicles – this includes crews removing deer remains.