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Deer Whistles Don’t Work

Deer Whistles, they don’t work!

By Roy Truelsen

From: Roy Truelsen <>
Date: 11/26/2000 1:35 AM

To the Editor of Rider Magazine
Attn: Clement Salvadori

Thank you for the article on the “Hornet Deer Alert” published in the January, 2001 edition of your magazine. I read the article with great interest and was not surprised to read that the electronic “Hornet” deer alert had no effect on deer.

Deer whistles not only don’t work as advertised, they can’t work. Why? Because the standard claim by “Save-A-Deer” and other deer whistle manufactures is that the deer whistles emit an ultrasonic or high frequency sound wave that stops deer in their tracks. “Although the theory sounds good, tests show that the whistles do not work. Information published by both Washington and Oregon State University, Cooperative Extension Services, tests by state police in Utah, Georgia, and Wisconsin, and testing in Europe all confirm the ineffectiveness of these devices.” (See “Deer Whistles” by James B. “Jim” Kea, Area Specialized Agent, Forest Resources, published by NC State University, AT&T State University, Cooperative Extension)

In the “Animal Warning Devices”, Report EB 1677, prepared by Washington State University, written by Leonard R. Askham, an Associate Professor and Associate Research Scientist, Vertebrate Pest Management, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Professor Askham systematically addresses and disproves each claim made by the deer whistle manufactures. These include the claims that deer whistles have been tested and proven effective in two European studies.

The response from Professor Askham is: “Not so.” They were tried in Europe 25 years ago but research did not prove them successful. Now they are being sold in the United States with European claims. The study in Finland, that all the deer whistler advertisers refer to, states that based on the experiments conducted “it was unsure that the animals not disturbed by the approach itself, so that the whistle sound was the only disturbing factor.”

The second study from Switzerland concludes the whistling sound, which is well within the human hearing range, is so weak that it is overlaid by the sound of the moving vehicle. A scientific advisory panel from the World Society for the Protection of Animals state, after extensive review, that there is no known data “that shows that such devices can actually stop an animal from crossing the road, which is the main purpose of the device.”

The article goes on to state that after months of testing, the Ohio State Police found no significant decrease in patrol car vs. deer accidents after the warning devices were installed. In fact, MORE accidents were reported the officers after the whistles were installed at the same period a year before along the same sections of highway. “Tests conducted in Utah, Georgia and Wisconsin also concluded that deer whistles don’t work.”

Perhaps the most definitive condemnation of deer whistles and their claimed effectiveness is described in the May 12, 1997 article entitled “Deer-Vehicle Collisions are Numerous and Costly. Do Countermeasures Work?, published by “Road Management & Engineering Journal”(RMEJ) . The article begins by identifying the large number of deer-vehicle deaths in the United States in 1991 at 120. Economic costs based on the National Highway Traffic Administrations 1990 figures produce a conservative annual cost in motorist loss of life and injury from deer-vehicle collisions at almost $200 million (remember that this is based on 1990 data).

On page 4 of 6 of the RMEJ article reviews the deer whistle manufacturers standard claims that the whistles emit ultrasonic sounds as the vehicle travels over 30 miles per hour and that these sounds (not audible to humans) are effective in frightening deer away from the roadway. The RMEJ article goes on to describe the typical deer whistle and sites a reference by the New York Times NATIONAL, that various police agencies, including California, Iowa and Kansas were using the whistles on their patrol cars. “While manufacturers contend deer can hear the whistle up to a quarter mile away, no published research verifies the device’s effectiveness.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has also presented evidence refuting the claims promoting the deer whistles.

“Georgia’s Game and Fish Department, for example, found that in hundreds of observations from vehicles equipped with deer whistles, deer didn’t respond. Whistles on vehicles going 25-30 mph produced no ultrasonic sound, although some ultrasonic sound was produced when the whistles were blown by mouth. According to wildlife biologists at the University of Georgia, NEITHER DEER NOR HUMANS CAN HEAR ULTRASONIC SOUND (emphasis added). Whistles blown by mouth near captive deer produce no response.”
The RMEJ article sites the University of Wisconsin study that found three types of deer whistles did produce low-pitched and ultrasonic sounds at speeds of 30 to 70 mph, however, the researchers were unable to verify that deer responded to the sounds, even at distances well below those claimed by the manufacturers. In addition, deer would only be able to hear the whistles if the road was straight and clear of other traffic or other obstructions, which is the least dangerous situation for the motorist as visibility provides warning to the driver.

The RMEJ article goes on to review the February 1993 Farm Journal article called “Blowing the Whistle on Deer Scare Devices”, wherein the previously mentioned Ohio State Police installed deer whistles on their patrol cars and observed no significant decrease in deer-vehicle collisions. The RMEJ article ends with a citation from the New York Times NATIONAL that describes an alternative and creative way to frighten deer and other animals off the road and out of the path of oncoming vehicles. The NYTN articles explained:

Before he discovered deer whistles, a supervisor for an Arkansas utility came up with his own plan to scare deer off the dark country roads. He taped the barking of his neighbor’s dogs, rigged an amplified speaker to the front of his truck and then broadcast the tape as he cruised down highways.
But he abandoned the scheme, amid concern that the barking was not only scaring deer, but awakening residents of southern Arkansas.

And finally, another great article on deer whistles and their ineffectiveness is “Deer Whistles – Do They Work” that reprints an article from Motorcycle Consumer News” and can be found at The highlights of this article include:

Scott Craven, University of Wisconsin Wildlife Specialist, states that he receives many requests for advice on the use and effectiveness of deer whistles, to which he replies “Until I see some solid evidence to support the use of deer whistles, I cannot, as a wildlife professional, recommend their use. I contend there is no substitute for driver education and awareness of the areas, seasons and times of day of vulnerability.” According to research in Michigan and Wisconsin, the deer rutting season in the fall is the peak hazard time as deer movement is increased and they are “oblivious” to outside activities that don’t relate to mating. November is typically the peak month for deer-vehicle collisions, with a second surge in late November when many deer seasons start. Also, deer are primarily nocturnal, so night time driving (or riding) increases the chance of hitting a deer.

The article ends by saying: “If use of deer whistles results in increased awareness of deer dangers, then a motorist’s chances of hitting a deer may be reduced. On the other hand, use of deer whistles may give him a false sense of security.”

Several years ago when I began researching deer whistles and their claims, I telephoned “Save-a-Deer” whistle company in Iowa and spoke with the owner Mike. I asked Mike about the Save-a-Deer claims and the only information he was able to provide was the “Test Report – Deer Alarm Whistle” compiled by Business Research Group, Bellevue, Iowa, the report that is often sited as the only study supporting the effectiveness of deer whistles. Mike explained that he just purchased the company from the founder and former owner of “Save-a-Deer”, Don Yeager (sp?).

Wanting to learn more about the Business Research Group report, I attempted contacting them but could not find a company listed anywhere in Iowa under that name in the telephone book or with the Iowa Secretary of State office. I then contacted Don Yeager via telephone to discuss the “Business Research Group” and their findings. When I contacted Don and asked where I could find the Business Research Group, his response was “That’s me. I am Business Research Group.”

Don continued to tell me that a group of his buddies and him made the whistle recordings on small, inexpensive tape recorders, loaded the recorders on snowmobiles and rode through the forest playing the tapes. The result ????? The deer ran away !!!!!! When I asked Don if he thought that running snowmobiles with lights storming through the forest had any effect on the test results, Don’s response was he had not considered that factor but that the deer did run away and snowmobiles were the same as cars and motorcycles. Don knew of no other study or evidence that documented that deer whistles actually work and supported his position by saying “Why else would people keep buying them?”

So the statement made by Save-a-Deer in their literature and on their Web page that states “The following research information was compiled by an independent research group in 1987” is false, misleading and self-serving. The owner of Save-a-Deer (in 1987) and his buddies on snowmobiles conducted the informal research and prepared the crude and undocumented two-page report … not what I would consider an “independent research group.” By the way, the new electronic Hornet device also appears to be a product from Save-a-Deer in Iowa.

So the next time you think about purchasing a deer whistle, consider the quality research that has been performed by professors, universities and police forces across the country that establish that deer whistles don’t work. Then compare this data to the unsupported claims made by the manufacturers and sellers of deer whistles and decide for yourself who is telling the truth before you spend your money.

BMW Airhead #4353
Portland, Oregon

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