By MAX FILBY
Ohio drivers may not know it, but hunters are making their commutes a little easier and safer.
Hunters in Ohio killed 165,361 deer in 2015. While the deer harvest was less than the 175,801 killed in 2014, hunting season serves as something of a “population cap” on deer, said John Windau, wildlife communications manager with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.
“Hunting is really the best and truly most effective form of population control,” Windau said.
In 2014, Ohio drivers killed 19,705 deer, marking about a 6 percent decline from 2013, according to a report released by the Ohio Insurance Institute. Windau and Mary Bonelli, senior vice president of public information at the Ohio Insurance Institute, both suggested that number might be higher if it were not for hunting.
In 2014, Hancock County hunters killed 1,117 deer. Wood County hunters harvested a similar number of deer in 2014 with a total of 1,078, as did Hardin County hunters with 1,149 deer, and Allen County had 1,028 killed by hunters, according to the state.
Seneca County saw the most deer harvested in the area with 1,677 in 2014, followed by Wyandot County hunters, who harvested 1,568 deer. Henry County harvested the least with 697 deer and Putnam County hunters killed slightly more at 759 that year.
“It controls the nuisance aspect,” Windau said of deer hunting. “It is something we do want people to know.”
Not only does hunting keep highways safer, it helps fund the state government. The fees hunters pay for licenses also fund programs and resources offered by ODNR, Windau said.
“We are funded by the people,” Windau said.
In the future, controlling wildlife may become more of a challenge, Windau said.
As people move into areas that were previously only inhabited by wild animals, unusual occurrences — such as when a deer ran through Luke’s Bar & Grill in Bluffton — may happen more often.
In 2015, the number of deer harvested by hunters in Hancock County and each surrounding county decreased by around 100 or more, with the exception of Hardin, Seneca and Henry counties. The same year, the number of deer killed by cars in Ohio increased by about 7 percent to 21,061.
Officials were hesitant to link the rise in deer-related traffic accidents to any one reason. The rise may be due to the fact that there are lower gas prices and more cars on the road, Bonelli said.
It could also be because of regulations currently in place to keep deer numbers from falling too low, or it may be because there are simply fewer people hunting and fewer deer being harvested, Windau said.
“There are no natural predators able to control population,” Windau said. “Hunting is a good way to control that.”