Should Lawmakers Do Something About Deer Deaths on Our Highways?

Jordan GarnRepresentative Mike Schultz, R-Hooper is sponsoring legislation that prohibits the Utah Department of Transportation from posting signs with deer silhouettes on Utah’s highways and interstates.

Schultz, an avid hunter, believes these signs “deceptively serve as crosswalk notifications to deer leading to a decrease in our deer herds.”  Thousands of Utah’s deer population dies each year after being struck by motor vehicles. “Ford and Chevy shouldn’t be killing these deer. My bolt action Browning 7mm should,” said Schultz. 

Representative Rich Cunningham, R-South Jordan, a hunter himself, questions whether these signs have any impact on vehicle collisions with deer. “There is no evidence that deer see these signs as permission to cross our highways,” said Cunningham.  “Besides, Schultz only hunts corn-fed, fenced deer.  I am not sure this legislation would impact his hunting.”

Connor Boyack, President of the libertarian-leaning Libertas Institute, agrees the signs need to go.  “The state should not be in the business of picking winners and losers, even amongst animal populations.  The market should decide whose guts end up all over our highways, not the state.”

The Eagle Forum, however, opposes the bill.  In its weekly telegram to members, the Eagle Forum warned that “extending rights to deer now will inevitably lead down a slippery slope where deer will one day demand they be allowed to marry.”

Representative Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, is considering a substitute bill that would be more palatable to hunters and would be a less expensive fix. “Perhaps we could just paint over the antlers on these signs,” said McKell. Large bucks would, therefore, be less likely to be struck by cars, according to McKell.  

Marina Lowe, legislative director of the ACLU, questions whether this substitute passes muster under constitutional scrutiny. “To deliberately target a female population of any species violates the equal protection clause of the constitution. All six of our Utah members are outraged by this legislation,” said Lowe. 

When questioned about this bill, Rep. Brad Last said, “if ever there was a reason to increase funding for public education, this is it.”

**Editor’s Note: Nothing about this article is real, although it is still uncertain whether deer see the signs in question as permission to cross—no deer were available for comment at the time of publishing.