Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Utah
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Utah Project

Assessing vehicle related mortality in mule deer in Utah

September 2009 - December 2013


Participating Agencies

  • Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are the most abundant big game species in Utah with numbers that exceed a quarter of a million individuals. They are also widely distributed with a range that covers >50% of the state. Much of their range, however, is now bisected by road networks with increasing traffic volumes. Utah is accessed and divided by ~9500 km (~5,900 miles) of state routes and ~ 56, 000 km (~35,000 miles) of city and county roads that are being used by a growing number of drivers. The number of miles driven on Utah’s roads has increased 38% in the past 15 years to an estimated 26 billion miles driven annually. If averaged over the state, ~12,000 vehicles would pass every milepost every day. Of course, traffic volume is pulsed and spatially heterogeneously, meaning that heavily traveled routes such as I-15 or route 6 have higher traffic volumes. For example, Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) at the Iron/Beaver county line on I-15 was 17,630 in 2007 vehicles. On route 6 near the south incorporated city limits of Price, AADT was 12,460 vehicles. Vehicle traffic poses a direct threat to animals whose movement patterns bring them close to roads, and this risk will only increase as traffic volumes continue to increase. In addition to the wildlife impacts, deer-vehicle collisions (DVCs) are a considerable public health concern as human losses, injuries, and property damage exceed $7.5 million annually. However, the data are incomplete regarding how many deer are actually hit in Utah and what effect DVCs have on mule deer population dynamics. Objectives: 1. Estimate the total number of deer killed by vehicles 2. Estimate the significance of vehicle-related mortality on mule deer populations