Where are the Deer at in Southeastern Michigan?

There are about 2 million deer in the State of Michigan and they are most active in the spring and fall at dusk and dawn. Such activity, especially in areas more heavily populated by deer and vehicles, can be attributed to thousands of deer-vehicle crashes a year. According to Michigan Traffic Facts, in Southeastern Michigan in 2019 Oakland County had the highest number of deer-vehicle crashes at 1,836. It is estimated by data3 from ArcGIS that Oakland County has a deer population of about 13,000, or 15 deer per square mile. Regionally, Livingston County has the highest deer population at about 25,400, or 45 deer per square mile. According to the data, there were 905 deer-vehicle crashes in Livingston County in 2019. Wayne County reported the fewest number of crashes in 2019 at 499; Wayne County’s deer population is estimated to be about 9,200 per square mile.

Washtenaw County data is forth coming.

While the size of a deer population plays a role in the number of deer-vehicle crashes in a county, so does the amount of traffic and how their living environment has been impacted. The Average Annual Daily Traffic map from the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments shows that Livingston County has far less daily traffic than Oakland County. So, while Livingston County may have a higher deer population than Oakland County, the amount of traffic clearly plays a role. Also, according to the Michigan State Police, 80 percent of deer-vehicle crashes occur on two-lane roads.

As areas further develop, deer and humans are also interacting more, particularly as deer become more comfortable with their new neighbors. Backyard gardens, bird feeders and other items the deer prefer to munch on also bring them more in contact with humans, and the areas they live in—including their roadways–as they look for easily accessible areas to eat.

Deer-vehicle crashes may not be entirely avoidable but there are solutions to at least curb them. Such ways to avoid crashes with a deer include:

  • Watching the sides of the road as you drive, particularly in low visibility or tall grasses and woods near the road;
  • Being aware for groups of deer. If one deer crosses the road there is a good chance more may cross as they tend to travel in groups;
  • Using high beams at night (when possible) to help see farther ahead and to identify the eye-shine of a deer;
  • Avoiding swerving around a deer, instead break firmly and honk the horn;
  • Slowing down.

Government entities can also help curb the amount of deer-vehicle crashes by:

  • Enforcing speed limits;
  • Installing fences 8 feet or higher in high deer traffic areas to keep them off the road;
  • Studies to identify frequently used pathways of deer and setting up warning signs for drivers.
  • Installing specific devices that warn deer of oncoming traffic to scare them away from the road.

Deer-Vehicle Crashes in Region Account for 17% of State’s Total

In 2015 in the state of Michigan there were about 1.75 million deer, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. In Southeastern Michigan there were 7,855 deer-vehicle crashes, according to the Michigan State Police.

This was down 509 crashes from 10 years prior. This total number of crashes represented 17 percent of the total number of deer-vehicle crashes in the state in 2015 even though this part of the state represents over 47 percent of the states population.

Below are three time series, based on data provided by the Michigan State Police, showing the total number of crashes in the seven county region, the total of injuries caused by deer-vehicle crashes and the total number of fatalities caused by deer-vehicle crashes.

Oakland County experienced the highest increase in the number of deer-vehicle accidents between 2014 and 2015 at 123. Over the 10 year period, four counties (Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Wayne) experienced increases, with Wayne County experiencing the highest at 56. Livingston County experienced the largest decrease in the number of deer-vehicle crashes between 2006 and 2015 at 474.

Washtenaw County is another county that experienced an overall decrease in the number of deer-vehicle crashes between 2006 and 2015 at 125. Between 2014 and 2015 the county also experienced a decrease of 110 crashes. However, the city of Ann Arbor is in the midst of a deer management program to reduce the number of negative deer-human interactions, according to Mlive. Between 2014 and 2015 the number of deer-vehicle accidents in the city increased from 51 to 90, according to Mlive.


As seen in the next two maps below, injuries caused by deer-vehicle accidents are fairly common while human fatalities are infrequent varying between zero and one for any given county in a year. Between 2006 and 2015 Oakland County regularly had the highest number of deer-vehicle injuries; it also had the highest number of deer-vehicle crashes. The number of injuries appears directly related to the number of accidents.

In 2015 there 70 injuries caused by deer-vehicle related accidents in Oakland County and in Monroe County there were four. Not only does Oakland County have the highest number of injuries from such crashes but it has also experienced the highest increase between 2006 and 2015 at 15. Washtenaw County climbed to a paek in 2010, fell substantially and then climbed slightly by 2015. It experienced the lowest increase in from 2006 to 2015 at 6.

While each county in Southeastern Michigan had at least a handful of injuries caused by deer-vehicle crashes, fatalities from such accidents were much more rare. Between 2006 and 2015 there were zero fatalities caused by deer-vehicle accidents in Wayne County. Unlike Wayne County, every other county in the region had at least one fatality in the 10 year time span. In the years 2009, 2010 and 2014 though there were zero deer related fatalities throughout the region. Livingston County had the highest number of fatalities between 2006 and 2015 at three, one of which was in 2015. Throughout the state of Michigan there were 11 fatalities caused by deer-vehicle crashes in 2015.




Although fatalities from deer-vehicle crashes are uncommon, motorists should still be aware of their surroundings when driving. Most deer-vehicle crashes occur in the fall and winter months between dusk and dawn on rural roads. Very few methods of reducing these crashes have been found to be effective, except fencing and drivers slowing their speeds (though they often will not without consistent enforcement).