Deer are leaping to their deaths in Pennsylvania

Jason Nark
The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
A white-tailed buck silhouetted against a sunset. (Dreamstime/TNS)

PHILADELPHIA — It’s raining deer in a small northwestern Pennsylvania town, and residents say that’s both disgusting and dangerous.

Approximately 25 whitetail deer have leaped to their deaths from the U.S. 219 bypass that runs through the town of Johnsonburg, Elk County, in recent years, according to a recent report by WJAC-TV of Johnstown.

While some of the deer land in wooded areas and fields, one portion of bypass runs above a populated area. Homeowner Bill Boylan said one deer nearly landed on his fishing boat beside his garage.

“I imagine a deer falling to the street from 60 feet. That’s what it’s like,” Boylan told The Inquirer on Wednesday.

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Boylan said the deer travel down from nearby wooded areas and onto the bypass. They get frightened by vehicle traffic and panic and when one jumps, he said, “they all do.”

The Pennsylvania Game Commission collects the carcasses that land in populated areas, Boylan said, but when WJAC visited the town last week, the deer in the wooded areas were still there, rotting.

“They pretty much just lay there,” Boylan said.

Residents told WJAC they’ve reached out to PennDOT, asking them to install barriers to divert the deer away from the bypass, fencing to prevent them from going over the side, or nets to catch debris.

Boylan told The Inquirer that ice and debris launched over the bypass walls when snow is plowed is even more of an issue than falling deer.

“The deer episodes are periodic,” he said. “But when I’m out there and I hear a snowplow coming over the bypass, I literally run.”

A PennDOT official told WJAC the agency expects to have a solution in several weeks.

“We started taking a look at it, trying to really determine where the deer are coming from, you know, how they are ending up on that bridge is really the problem we’ve got to solve first before we can determine if there’s anything we can do or not,” PennDOT district executive Tom Zurat told the news station.

Zurat said PennDOT has known about the issue for only several weeks, but Boylan said they’ve forwarded complaints for years. He thinks it’s only a matter of time before someone is injured or worse.

Whitetail deer can weigh up to 150 pounds.