Ross preparing to survey residents about their close encounters with deer

October 13, 2018

Like many western Pennsylvania communities surrounded by swathes of woodlands, Ross Township has been experiencing what officials believe is a growing deer population -- or at least more deer in areas where they previously didn’t roam.

To get a snapshot of the frequency and kind of encounters residents are having with deer, the township is developing a survey that will be posted online and mailed out to 500 to 700 people.

“From personal experience with near misses to the reports we’ve hard from a lot of residents, it’s clear to me that we have a deer problem in the township,” said Commissioner Dan DeMarco, the architect of an ordinance recently passed that made it illegal for residents to feed deer.

“This survey is a way to find out a little more about what residents are experiencing in their neighborhoods so we can develop a strategy for addressing the problem,” he said.

Ross police do not specifically track collisions between deer and vehicles, according to a department spokesman.

In addition to the risk to drivers, deer are considered a major contributor in the spread of Lyme Disease, which is transmitted through the bite of infected black-legged ticks, or deer ticks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During public discussions about whether to enact the deer feeding ban, a number of residents told the board that they regularly see herds of a dozen or more deer foraging in residential neighborhoods. They complained about the health risk from deer ticks, the mess created by their droppings and the damage to expensive landscaping.

DeMarco said the survey will try to glean from residents information such as what they find most problematic with the deer population to what ways residents would like to see used to control the population.

Statewide statistics support the danger deer poses to motorists.

Pennsylvania ranks No. 1 in the United States for animal-related crashes, according to a recent study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, with deer, by far, being the most common animal to be struck by vehicles followed by raccoons, dogs, turkeys and coyotes.

A county-by-county crash analysis by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department for 2012-16 put Allegheny County at the top, with 909 deer crashes. Westmoreland County ranked fourth, with 667 deer crashes.

DeMarco said a final version of the survey will have to be approved by the commissioners before it is distributed to residents.

“We’re also working on a way to make sure that the responses we get are accurate,” DeMarco said. “It’s important that there isn’t a way for people to stack the results in one direction or another.”

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