Deer Numbers in Michigan Continue to Grow

Deer season is open in Michigan once again, and this year it is estimated that there are more deer and fewer hunters. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources there are about 2 million deer in Michigan currently (2022), and 10 years ago the deer population was estimated to be about 300,000. And, as the number of deer have increased the number of deer hunting licenses in Michigan have decreased, yet the number off deer-vehicle crashes have increased.

Beginning with hunting license data, the number of hunting licenses issued in the State of Michigan has been declining for several years, at least. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, there were 732,163 hunting licenses issued in 2017 and by 2021 that number declined to 641,588. For 2022, 460,436 hunting licenses has been issued as of Oct. 31, 2022.

According to a 2021 MLive article, two reasons for the decline in hunting is that both access and time is dwindling. In other words, people are growing too busy to spend time to hunt and hunting locations are declining for some too.

So, with the decline in deer hunters there has been an increase in Michigan’s deer population and an in deer-vehicle traffic accidents. In 2021, there were 52,218 deer-vehicle traffic accidents, with the greatest number of accidents happening in November, according to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts. In general, there were more crashes in the winter months when the days are shorter and when rutting season (essentially mating season occurs). Since 2011, 2019 was when there was the greatest number of deer-vehicle accidents at 55,531.

Furthermore, in 2021, of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan, Oakland County had the highest number of accidents at 1,853. It should be noted, Oakland County also has a higher population than all the other counties except Wayne County. However, Wayne County reported 511 deer-vehicle accidents in 2021. Wayne County also has more densely populated areas.

Not only have deer-vehicle traffic crashes increased overtime, but an increase in deer populations can also damage an ecosystem as the deer can decimate certain plant species (for food), including those in residents’ yards. Concentrated deer populations are also more suspectable to disease. So, the increased visibility of deer, along with the issues they can bring, has brough about outcries from local communities for area leaders to find a fix. In Southfield, voters approved an advisory measure to reduce the city’s deer herd by human, lethal manners. This advisory deer culling measure received 62 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8, 2022 election. Other communities that have taken action to reduce its population include Ann Arbor and Grosse Ile.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments also has taken interest in the region’s growing deer population and its impact on residents, traffic and land management. It recently created a survey asking area how communities several questions regarding their experiences with deer in their communities and what their concerns about deer are. The survey is now closed, but SEMCOG leaders are hoping its results will help lead to additional solutions to the area deer problem.

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).