A deer cull program aimed at shrinking the animal's population in the Kennebecasis Valley has resulted in a drop in deer and car collisions each year, even as autobody shops from Sussex to Rothesay are reporting a spike.
Deer biologist Joe Kennedy, with the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Resources, said there's been a seven per cent decline each year in accidents involving deer, moose and bear in the valley since the program launched in 2014.
"We're not going to be able to prevent that altogether," Kennedy said, adding the program isn't aimed at eliminating the deer population in the KV entirely. "What we're trying to do is reduce the occurrence."
Kennedy crunched the collision numbers in Zone 23, a wildlife management area stretching from Saint John to just beyond Sussex to St. Martins. The valley's culling program has reduced roadkill incidents involving big game, compared to other areas in the same zone, he said.
"We're actually seeing about a five or six per cent increase each year outside of the KV," Kennedy said. "So the nuisance deer control program we have within the KV is reducing roadkill occurrence compared to the outside areas."
According to data from the RCMP detachment in Sussex, vehicle crashes with wildlife make up a significant portion of annual collisions. In 2019, there were 287 reported crashes in the Sussex area.
While the RCMP system doesn't specify which wildlife species are involved, 45 of them were caused by a deer, moose or bear, making up 15 per cent of the annual collisions.
In 2020, of the 220 collisions reported, 60 were caused by a deer, moose or bear, increasing to 27 per cent that year, which marks a 12 per cent increase.
In May, autobody shop owners in Sussex and Rothesay told the newspaper two or three vehicles arrive at their shop a week needing costly repairs because of deer jumping in front of or into moving vehicles.
"You used to get a few deer hits and that was it," Tim Cripps, owner of Cripps' Collision Repair in Sussex, previously told the newspaper. "Once winter comes, it would taper off. But the last five, six or seven years, it seems it doesn't matter what time of year it is – spring, summer, winter, fall – we have two or three deer hits pretty much every week all year long."
Dave Brown, who owns Autobody Plus in Rothesay, said he saw similar numbers.
But Kennedy said the number of vehicles heading to autobody shops in the valley isn't a good indicator of population change in deer within the Kennebecasis Valley, which has seen a "definite decline" in almost eight years as hunters harvest about 125 breeding females a year.
"(Vehicle owners) could be living out in St. Martins or Norton or other areas."
Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal