10 Worst States for Animal Collisions

Animal collisions are the cause of many car accidents across the U.S. Read on to learn the top 10 worst states for animal collisions and which animals are most likely to cause accidents.

UPDATED: Jul 11, 2022Fact Checked

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Reviewed by Sara Routhier
Director of Outreach Sara Routhier

UPDATED: Jul 11, 2022

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A Concise Overview

  • The 10 worst states for animal collisions average 19 fatalities per 1 million vehicles
  • The most common animals that cause vehicle crashes are deer
  • Most wildlife-vehicle collisions happen between September and December

No one wants to collide with an animal on the road, especially if it’s a domestic animal. Unfortunately, animal-vehicle collisions are prevalent in the worst states for animal collisions.

Several serious issues arise from animal-vehicle collisions. Not only is there a high likelihood of damage to your vehicle, resulting in pricey auto insurance repair bills, but human injury and death are typical results of animal-vehicle collisions. It can be difficult to know what to do if you hit a deer or another animal, so it’s a good idea to try to avoid it as much as possible.

While you can’t do much to control animals’ actions on the road, you can educate yourself on the most dangerous states to drive through.

This article includes wildlife-vehicle collision statistics to show how many accidents are caused by animals and dives deep into one of the most common animals that cause collisions: deer.

You must have comprehensive coverage to receive a payout from your auto insurance company after hitting an animal.

We ranked the top 10 worst states by looking at the number of recorded fatalities over a 10-year-period. So read on to find out if you live in one of the most dangerous states for animal collisions and what you can do to stay safe.

Worst States for Animal Collisions Ranked

The 10 worst states for animal crashes differ in geographic topography and human populations. However, what they have in common is that they all have a high number of animal crash fatalities.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration estimates that about 1 to 2 million car crashes are caused by animals yearly.  

Since drivers don’t report every car accident and its cause, it’s hard for the U.S. Department of Transportation to get exact numbers for how many animals cause car accidents.

Which state has the highest risk of animal collisions? Our researchers pulled total fatalities from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) study on animal collisions and divided each state’s total fatalities over a 10-year-period by the state’s number of registered vehicles. 

The resulting numbers showed which states had the highest fatality rates relative to the number of registered vehicles in the state.

The table below shows the fatality rates per 1 million registered vehicles.

10-Year Stats: Traffic Deaths in Animal Collisions (2009-2018)
Rank State Fatality RateHuman Deaths
1Montana 24.643
2South Dakota 22.927
3Alaska 21.217
4Wyoming 20.517
5Wisconsin 20.3112
6Kansas 17.446
8New Mexico 16.430
9North Dakota 14.113
10Oklahoma 13.046
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Several factors can cause higher fatality rates in a state, from the size of local animals to a lack of animal population control.

Regardless of the variables that created high fatality numbers in these states, it’s clear they’ve had high numbers of severe animal crashes over the years.

The top 10 states’ average fatality rate is 18.7 fatalities per 1 million registered vehicles.

Many states on this list are taking active measures to reduce animal collisions, from proposing more underground tunnels under highways to educating the public about when to watch out for local animals. 

Keep reading to learn more about the top 10 states for animal collisions.

#1 – Montana

Montana is the worst state for animal collision fatalities, with 24.6 animal crash deaths per 1 million vehicles or 43 animal crash deaths from 2009 to 2018. In addition, Montana has issues with large animals like moose, elk, and deer on its roadways.

Why? Montana has a low human population. While this means less traffic on the roads, it also means more animals.

Less urban expansion into wildlife populations means animals can thrive in greater numbers. Unfortunately, the result is that Montana has the highest animal crash fatalities per 1 million vehicles.

According to the Montana Department of Transportation 2018 report about road issues, animals caused 3,496 crashes. Due to the surrounding woods and tall grasses, it seems like Montana wildlife can run out of nowhere into traffic.

Since the likelihood of running into an animal in Montana is so high, plans are underway to create safer roadway crossings for wildlife, such as underground tunnels under highways.

#2 – South Dakota

South Dakota is the second-worst state for animal collisions, with 27 deaths from animal crashes from 2009 to 2018. The main culprit of animal crashes in South Dakota is deer.

With a population in the hundreds of thousands, deer are the most common animal you may crash into in South Dakota. However, you may also see antelopes, elk, coyotes, and prairie dogs.

In 2019, the South Dakota Department of Transportation recorded 4,976 crashes caused by animals. With a total of 20,391 crashes occurring in 2019, animals in South Dakota caused 24% of crashes.

24% is a very high percentage and shows why South Dakota has a high number of animal crash fatalities per 1 million vehicles. The more animal-vehicle crashes, the more likely fatalities will occur.

#3 – Alaska

Alaska doesn’t have a high number of drivers on its streets, but its low population means that the number of wild animals near roadways is higher than average. From 2009 to 2018, there were 17 deaths from animal collisions.

Moose are the leading cause of animal crashes in Alaska, and Alaska has the highest rate of moose-vehicle collisions in the United States. It’s not uncommon to see a moose in your backyard in Alaska, so it’s common to see one crossing the street.

The Alaska Department of Transportation’s previous study of 2011 moose collisions showed that moose caused 666 crashes in 2011. In addition, moose caused 12% of all crashes in the municipality of Anchorage.

Most moose crashes in Alaska occur between December and January when roads are icy, and visibility is poor.

It’s essential to pay attention to rural roads, where moose exist in higher numbers. For example, the Alaska Department of Transportation’s 2011 study found that 76% of moose car accidents were on rural roads.

In addition to the higher number of moose collisions in Alaska, drivers may also collide with blacktail deer, caribou, bears, foxes, and more. 

So whether you live in Alaska or are just visiting, remember that a state with a larger wildlife population and more rural roads means a higher risk of animal-vehicle accidents.

#4 – Wyoming

The state of Wyoming had a total of 20.5 animal crash deaths per 1 million vehicles or 17 animal crash deaths from 2009 to 2018. This high number earns Wyoming the 4th spot on our list. Home to the famous Yellowstone Park, Wyoming has many large wild animals roaming its rural and urban roads.

Unfortunately, tourists hit and kill many animals in Yellowstone Park every year, as wildlife is often next to roads in Wyoming and Yellowstone Park.

The most common animals are deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, black bears, and moose. While you may also spot grizzly bears, bison, or wild horses, their numbers are more limited.

With so many diverse animals living in Wyoming, the Wyoming Department of Transportation lumps all animal-related crashes into one statistic instead of recording data by species.

In 2019, there were 2,658 crashes with wildlife in Wyoming. Since there were 14,885 crashes in Wyoming that year, wildlife caused 17.8% of all vehicle crashes.

The state only records wild animal crashes and doesn’t include domestic animal crashes. So Wyoming’s percentage could be higher than our analysts calculated.

#5 – Wisconsin

Wisconsin had 112 deaths from animal collisions between 2009 and 2018. Once again, deer are the main culprit of animal-related crashes, although you’ll also see small animals like foxes and raccoons on the road.

Since deer are the leading cause of animal crashes in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation only records the number of deer crashes annually.

In 2019, deer caused 18,414 crashes, resulting in nine human fatalities and 556 human injuries.

While there are larger animals than deer in Wisconsin, you rarely crash into one or even see one by the side of the road.

Why? The moose and elk population is so low in Wisconsin that moose are a protected species, and elk have a limited hunting season to encourage the elk population to grow.

While black bears are a thriving population in Wisconsin, it’s usually easier to see a lumbering black bear crossing the road than a deer darting in front of a car.

#6 – Kansas

In Kansas, there were 17.4 animal crash deaths per 1 million vehicles or 46 animal crash deaths from 2009 to 2018. Most of these crashes are caused by the deer population in Kansas, although other animals on Kansas’ roadways include bison, coyotes, foxes, and bobcats. 

Since deer cause most crashes, the Kansas Department of Transportation (KSDOT) only records annual deer crashes.

In 2018, deer caused 10,736 crashes that injured 593 people and killed three people.

So while you may see a lumbering bison or two in Kansas, your biggest threat is deer. According to the KSDOT, deer caused 16.5% of Kansas crashes in 2018.

#7 – Maine

Maine is not one of the biggest states but hosts numerous types of wildlife. The animals you may see on the roads are deer and moose. Unfortunately, there were 19 deaths from animal collisions between 2009 and 2018.

The state has posted numerous road signs warning drivers of deer and moose crossings in areas where the animal populations are highest to help reduce accidents.

The Maine Department of Transportation collects accident data by animal type every year, so let’s look at which five animals are the biggest problems in Maine.

Traffic Accidents Involving Animals in Maine
Animal Type Collisions
Deer 5,952
Moose 256
All other animals 182
Turkey 49
Bear 28
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Deer and moose are the most common causes of accidents in Maine, but less common large animals like bears also caused a fair number of crashes in 2018. Since moose are enormous animals, they can do a significant amount of damage to vehicles and people.

#8 – New Mexico

New Mexico ranks eighth on our list, with 16.1 deaths from animal crashes per 1 million vehicles or 30 deaths from animal crashes. Some of the most dangerous animals in New Mexico are deer and elk. Why?

According to the University of New Mexico’s report on annual crash data from the New Mexico Department of Transportation, deer and elk caused 66.4% of 1,928 animal-related crashes in 2018.

Look at the table below to see the top culprits of animal crashes in 2018 in New Mexico. Coyotes and horses tied for fifth place with 42 crashes each.

Traffic Accidents Involving Animals in New Mexico
Animal Type Collisions
Elk 289
Cow 252
Horse 42
Coyote 42
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As you can see from the list, it is not just wild animals that cause crashes in New Mexico. Domesticated animals like cows, horses, and dogs caused 416 crashes in 2018. 

So not only do New Mexicans have to contend with large wildlife darting in front of vehicles, but domestic animals from farms may also wander onto the road.

#9 – North Dakota

North Dakota ranks ninth among the top 10 worst states for animal collisions. With 14.1 deaths from animal crashes per 1 million vehicles or 13 deaths from animal crashes, North Dakotans and visitors should watch for wildlife on the roads.

While the main culprit of animal-related crashes in North Dakota is deer, you may occasionally see large mammals like elk or moose near roadways.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) estimates that deer cause several thousand crashes annually. Deer crashes make up about 15% of all crashes in North Dakota.

According to the NDDOT, deer crashes caused an enormous economic impact of roughly $32.4 million in 2006.

After a deer crash, the owner must pay for medical and vehicle expenses, and the government pays to clean the carcass or euthanize the animal if it’s still alive and suffering.

#10 – Oklahoma

Oklahoma ranks 10th on our list of the top 10 worst states for animal collisions. Between 2009 and 2018, there were 13 deaths from animal crashes per 1 million vehicles or 46 deaths from animal crashes.

Oklahoma’s rate is high because while animal collisions are common, fatalities from animal crashes are less common. A higher rate means Oklahoma residents are more likely to die from animal crashes than in other states.

So what animals in Oklahoma cause all of these accidents? Some of the most populous wildlife in Oklahoma are deer, elk, and pronghorn antelopes, though deer are usually the main culprit of crashes in Oklahoma.

How many deer are in Oklahoma? The Oklahoma Wildlife Department hunting reports showed that 2019 hunters harvested 66,594 deer, representing a tiny fraction of the total deer in Oklahoma.

There are limits on how many deer hunters can kill to protect the deer population. The actual population of deer in Oklahoma is impossible to calculate, but based on hunting records, the state estimates there are at least half a million deer in Oklahoma.

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Animal Collision Deaths Across America

While animal collision deaths are most common in the worst states for animal collisions, this doesn’t mean animal collisions don’t happen everywhere. 

Look at the table below to see where your state ranks for animal collisions. The death rate for each state is the number of traffic deaths for every one million registered vehicles.

Animal-Related Traffic Death Rate in All States
RankStateRegistered VehiclesAnimal-Related Traffic DeathsDeath Rate
2South Dakota1,177,8252722.9
8New Mexico1,828,4663016.4
9North Dakota922,6401314.1
13South Carolina4,273,2615412.6
18West Virginia1,651,2641710.3
23New Hampshire1,318,889129.1
32North Carolina8,071,315465.7
37New York11,000,892534.8
44New Jersey6,173,356172.8
45Rhode Island872,24922.3
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If you live in Massachusetts, Hawaii, or California, you also live in one of the states with the lowest death rates for animal-vehicle collisions.

Comprehensive auto insurance coverage is a must if you live in one of the states with the highest animal collision rates since it’s the only coverage that reimburses you for damages if you collide with an animal.

It’s important to have comprehensive insurance if you live in one of the top 10 worst states, as comprehensive insurance will cover animal collision claims.

Most drivers ditch comprehensive insurance if they have older vehicles, but this is usually a mistake. Not only does comprehensive insurance cover the bills from animal collisions, but it also covers damages and losses from the following:

  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Weather
  • Natural disasters
  • Falling objects
  • Water damage

So even if you don’t live in the worst state for animal crashes, you may live in an area prone to theft or flooding, making it prudent to carry comprehensive insurance.

Collision auto insurance coverage, often confused with comprehensive auto insurance coverage, won’t cover an accident with an animal. Collision auto insurance covers most collisions — except those with animals. 

Generally, auto insurance companies require drivers purchase combined collision and comprehensive auto insurance, as they’re complimentary.

The 10 Worst States for Animal Collisions: The Bottom Line

According to information from the IIHS, Montana has the most deaths from animal collisions, but drivers in every state face accidents caused by animals. In addition, it costs money to clean up roadkill animals. States with a high percentage of animal accidents must also allocate money to remove the animals.

Dwindling habitats are just one cause of more and more animal-involved accidents. While some states see fewer crashes involving animals, thousands of accidents occur yearly.

Drivers need comprehensive coverage to pay for damages from animal-related crashes. Although collision coverage pays for most accident damage to your vehicle, it doesn’t include animals.

Anyone can get involved in an accident with an animal. Ensure you have the proper coverages, so you’re not left with costly out-of-pocket repairs.

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