Iowa has more miles of road than any state in the union save for Texas. Iowans travel those roads for commerce and increasingly to commute between home and work. More and more Iowans are moving into rural areas, and this, beyond the suburban and exurban population, is on the move almost continuously. The encroachment of urban Iowa into the countryside comes with casualties.
Thousands of cars travel Iowa's highways every day. We are zooming to more places than ever before, from work to soccer practice to cello lessons and to our churches.
The Iowa DOT says four million cars are on the road today, almost one million more cars than people in the state. More windshield time, more chances you'll see one of these through it, deer. State Farm Insurance released a study last week quoting Iowans fifth most likely to hit a deer inside the state's borders.
So what does this mean? Each 109th car on the road is going to hit a deer. While this year's survey was the first to identify the odds, it pointed to a dramatic increase in Iowans' travel. Compared to the 18 billion miles traveled 25 years ago, last year's total soared to 31.7 billion, nearly twice as many miles logged and 1.5 billion more than just five years ago. That averages to around 10,000 miles for every registered vehicle in Iowa and what they travel annually.
In previous years by sheer numbers alone, Iowa was 15th in total number of crashes. Around 6,300 deer claims were made to state farm just last year. Ten of those crashes in Iowa killed someone. In 1994 that number was only one.
Nationwide car/deer crashes also cause 1.1 billion dollars in property damage every year. But deer have huge economic impact on the state for other reasons. A new study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the economic impact of deer hunts puts $137 million in the state's coffers. That number has tripled since the last survey just five years ago, and that is money spent on rooms, meals, fuel, and supplies.
State government, through the Iowa department of natural resources, also benefits from deer hunting. Each deer tag costs $27. Then there's a small game tax stamp at $17.50, and a habitat fee for $11.50, and that all adds up for the DNR. They help fund one-fourth of the DNR's annual budget of $23 million.
But the question is, is the economic activity the deer population stimulates worth the damage that they cause?