How To Avoid A Wildlife Collision

Every year, deer, elk, and moose collisions are the cause of hundreds of thousands of vehicle accidents along North American roads.

The elk or wapiti is one of the largest land mammals in North America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The elk or wapiti is one of the largest land mammals in North America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colliding with these animals, particularly moose, is potentially fatal for driver and passengers and is likely to cause significant damage to your vehicle—and to the animals.

To avoid a collision, whether driving a car, truck, or recreational vehicle, be alert and know what to do if you come head-to-head with one.

It is important for motorists to have information about the factors that influence animal behavior. This will lead to an increased level of understanding about when, where, and why wildlife is most likely to be present near the road.

Animals are active 24 hours of the day, and all year round, but records kept by insurance and government agencies show that there are some peak times when wildlife vehicle collisions may be more likely and drivers should be especially alert.

Drivers need to be alert and cautious because moose are on the move, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. Moose are more likely to be crossing roadways at this time of year, especially after dark or early in the morning as they move from wintering areas to spring feeding locations.

Rocky Mountain Goats in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rocky Mountain Goats in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More moose are hit by motorists in the spring than at any other time of the year. There is another peak of activity in September and October, the breeding season for moose.

Moose are especially difficult to see at night because their fur is very dark, and they are so tall that their eyes are normally above most headlight beams, and therefore their eyes may not reflect the head lights.

“Motorists hit 64 moose on Vermont highways during 2014,” said Col. Jason Batchelder of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

“We are asking drivers to be especially careful and for people to enjoy watching moose from a distance. Moose can be unpredictable and dangerous if you get too close and they feel cornered or get irritated.”

Most literature suggests that dusk and dawn are traditionally times of high wildlife vehicle collisions. Light levels are low, and animals are active at these times.

Based in British Columbia, the Wildlife Collision Prevention Program (WCPP) reports that 35-45 percent of all collisions with wildlife in British Columbia and Alberta occur between 7:00 p.m. and midnight with Fridays accounting for 15.8 percent of all collisions.

Deer are involved in approximately 80 percent of wildlife vehicle collisions. May and November have the highest rates of deer crashes.

Moose are involved in approximately 7 percent of all wildlife vehicle collisions. Due to the extremely large size of these animals, (a mature bull moose may weigh up to 1,200 pounds – 500 kg), there is a significant chance that a moose-vehicle collision will result in a human fatality.

Rocky Mountain Sheep. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rocky Mountain Sheep. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elk are involved in approximately 3 percent of wildlife vehicle collisions.

Avoiding a Collision

Wild animals are a threat to motorists, but there are measures you can take to avoid hitting them.

Watch for the Signs

Collisions occur most often in prime deer, elk, and moose habitat such as forested areas and waterways. Heed the warning signs and increase your roadside awareness. If you see a deer, elk, or moose crossing sign, be extra alert and slow down. These wild animals cross roads for a wide variety of reasons and at different times of the year. They cross the road randomly, as well as at their regular crossings.

Reduce Speed

Speed is a major factor in collisions. Wildlife experts have recommended 55mph/90 kph as a suitable speed for wildlife zones in good weather conditions, as it provides you with some reaction time to stop.

Drive Defensively

Actively watch for wildlife, movement, or shining eyes on and beside the road. Drivers should be cautious between dusk and dawn. Light levels are low, and animals are active.

Always be aware of the danger.

Observe your Surroundings

The elk or wapiti is one of the largest land mammals in North America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The elk or wapiti is one of the largest land mammals in North America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Actively scan the sides of the roads as you drive for any signs of wildlife. Look on the road sides, the shoulders, down into ditches (they love the grass there), median strips, intersecting roads, on the road itself and try to spot any signs of movement, flashes of eyes or body shapes. Be sure to scan both sides.

Worth Pondering…

The best way of being kind to bears is not to be very close to them.
―Margaret Atwood, MaddAddam

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