Since 2015, Mt. Lebanon has spent nearly $270,000 on its deer management program.
But that actually could represent a savings compared with what could have occurred had the program not been implemented, according to Ian McMeans, assistant municipal manager and planner.
During Tuesday’s Mt. Lebanon Commission discussion session, McMeans gave a review of the management program, during which he presented data indicating the number of local deer-vehicular collisions would have continued to rise without control measures, with the costs associated with the accidents increasing, as well.
At the core of his presentation was a summary of collision totals for the past several years, beginning with 44 in 2013 and peaking at 122 in 2016 before starting a downward trajectory.
“This is based on number of reports to the police department,” he said. “This is how we’ve always tracked this number. So our method of collection has been the same over time. We have not changed it.”
Following the peak were 86 and 61 collisions in 2017 and ’18, respectively. McMeans, though, ran a trend-line projection based on the 2013-16 numbers that showed expectations for continued increases.
According to the information he presented, 182 collisions could have been expected for 2017 and 261 the following year. Those estimates would represent a reduction of 296 from projected total in past two years, he said.
He used that figure to construct a cost-benefit analysis, using the average expense of a single deer-vehicular collision as reported by two sources, Pennsylvania Game Commission, $1,500, and State Farm Insurance, $4,175.
“The big difference there was that the State Farm Insurance data included costs for injuries, as well,” McMeans said.
By extension, the analysis reports “a reduction of 296 DVCs equates to a savings of $444,000 to $1,235,500,” compared with the $296,579 the municipality has spent on deer management since 2015.
During the citizens’ comments portion of the commission’s regular meeting following the discussion session, resident Kimberly Schevtchuk disputed the substance of the analysis.
Schevtchuk said she is a public policy specialist with doctoral-level work in statistics and comparative methodology and is a longtime opponent of lethal methods of deer management.
“It is a carefully constructed pseudo-scientific report which grossly exaggerates its findings, that promotes current policy in emphasizing rifle and archery shooting as a primary method to managing the deer conflict,” Schevtchuk told commissioners.
She requested a face-to-face meeting with municipal officials to discuss her concerns further.
The municipality has combined nonlethal management methods, starting with a 2012 ban on feeding deer, with what have become annual archery and sharpshooting hunts. Since 2015, the hunters have taken 466 deer, according to McMeans.
The current deer management program was launched with the commission’s stated goal of reducing the number of deer-vehicular collisions in Mt. Lebanon by 50 percent over a five-year period, which is scheduled to wrap up in 2020.
“We are 50 percent below our high point,” McMeans said about the 2016 total, but nowhere near the relatively low figures of 2013-14. “So it kind of depends on what the commission as a whole wants to use as your starting-point number to determine what that 50 percent number is. But I would say it’s pretty clear we’re making progress in the right direction.”
The commission’s setting of the goal is in line with a 2014 Game Commission report that advises against conducting counts of deer herd in a certain area or in a community.
“The Game Commission actually recommends identifying and measuring impacts of deer, not numbers of deer, and trends are important,” McMeans said.
During his presentation, he also addressed certain areas of Mt. Lebanon where a higher number of collisions have occurred: on Cedar Boulevard between Bird and Robb Hollow Parks, on McNeilly Road in the vicinity of McNeilly Park, and near St. Clair Hospital, the property of which abuts woods in Scott Township.
Commissioner John Bendel suggested acting accordingly.
“I’d like to take a look at those areas and see if there are methods that we might be able to consider to create more awareness around those areas,” he said, “or some other deterrent that possibly could reduce the number of accidents in those areas, specifically.”
McMeans also reported on the municipality’s donation of venison, with more than 9,500 pounds going to Pennsylvania Hunters Sharing the Harvest since 2015 through the archery and sharpshooting programs, equating to 47,500-plus meals.