OLR Report: Deer Population and Hunting Accidents

2011-R-0062

By: Janet L. Kaminski Leduc, Senior Legislative Attorney

You asked (1) how many deer were killed in 2003 in hunting and vehicle accidents and by other means and (2) how the deer population has changed during the last decade. You also want to know the (1) number of hunting accidents in Connecticut since 2000, (2) age of those involved in hunting accidents (i. e. , under and over age 18), and (3) number of arrests for hunting while under the influence of alcohol or drugs since 2001.

SUMMARY

According to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), 16,502 deer were killed in the state in 2003. This includes 12,670 killed by hunters and 2,778 killed in reported vehicle accidents. Statewide deer population peaked in 2000 and is now declining.

Since 2000, there have been 27 hunting accidents in Connecticut, including one fatality. In the cases where DEP determined the age of the hunter involved in the accident, he or she was age 18 or older.

According to Judicial Department data, since 2001, there have been three arrests for hunting while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in violation of CGS § 53-206d(b): one each in 2004, 2009, and 2010. All were dismissed (i.e., nolle prosequi).

DEER POPULATION

Deer Killed in 2003

DEP provided deer mortality information for 2003 and, for comparison purposes, 2009, as shown in Table 1. Deer deaths were higher in 2003 than in 2009.

Table 1: White Tail Deer Mortality Summary, 2003 and 2009

Year Hunter-Killed Vehicle-Killed(Reported) Crop-Killed Other Total
2003 12,670 2,778 831 223 16,502
2009 11,774 1,902 780 96 14,552

Source: Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection

DEP noted that the number of deer killed by vehicle accidents is likely under represented because not all such accidents are reported. A comparison of data between the DEP Environmental Conservation Police and the Department of Transportation (DOT), indicates that for every one vehicle-killed deer reported, DOT picks up another unreported five deer.

Population Trend

DEP indicates that Connecticut deer population peaked in 2000 and is now declining. DEP bases this on aerial deer surveys and deer-vehicle accidents. Most recently, DEP estimated the 2006 statewide deer population at about 126,000. Deer densities remain highest in Fairfield County, estimated at about 60 deer per square mile in 2009.

HUNTING ACCIDENTS

History of Hunting Accidents, Including Age of Hunter

Table 2 provides a history of hunting accidents in Connecticut since 2000, including the game sought, injury, and contributing factor. Where a shooting is involved, DEP includes the shooter’s age, which is also included in the table. Over the 11-year period (2000 – 2010), there were 27 hunting accidents. Of the 27, 18 involved the discharge of a firearm, and one resulted in a fatality. In the 13 cases in which DEP determined the shooter’s age, the shooter was age 18 or older.

Table 2: Connecticut Hunting Accidents, 2000 – 2010

Year Game Sought Injury Shooter Age Contributing Factor Victim was Non-hunter? Fatality?
2000 Turkey .22 caliber wound 50 Failure to identify target No No
2000 Pheasant Pellet wounds Unknown Victim out of sight No No
2000 Deer Fall from stand N/A No safety harness No No
2000 Pheasant Pellet wounds Unknown Victim out of sight No No
2000 Deer Fall from stand N/A No safety harness No No
2001 Geese Pellet wounds 61 Victim in line of fire No No
2001 Coyote, squirrel Fall from stand N/A Alcohol No No
2001 Deer Fall from stand N/A No safety harness No No
2001 Deer Heart attack N/A Natural causes No No
2002 Pheasant Pellet wounds 68 Swinging on game No No
2002 Deer Fall from stand N/A No safety harness No No
2002 Deer Fall from stand N/A No safety harness No Yes
2003 Pheasant Pellet wounds 33 Swinging on game No No
2004 Pheasant Pellet wounds 18 Careless handling Self-inflicted No
2004 Deer Projectile wound 38 Unavailable No No
2005 Pheasant Pellet wounds 43 Victim out of sight No No
2005 Pheasant Pellet wounds Unknown Victim out of sight Yes No
2007 Turkey Pellet wounds 48 Mistaken for game No No
2007 Deer .12 slug wound 31 Mistaken for game No No
2008 Turkey Pellet wounds 69 Mistaken for game No No
2008 Geese Pellet wounds 35 Careless handling Self-inflicted No
2009 Geese Pellet wounds 64 Careless handling No No
2009 Deer Fall from stand N/A No safety harness No No
2009 Pheasant Pellet wounds 65 Careless, reckless No No
2010 Deer Fall from stand N/A No safety harness No No
2010 Pheasant Pellet wounds Unknown Victim out of sight No No
2010 Deer Projectile wound Under investigation No No

Source: Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection

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