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Editorial: Wildlife On Road

Editorial: Watch for wildlife on the road

Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Oct 03, 2019

This time of year, the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions typically peaks as animals start migrating to winter habitat, mating season begins for deer and elk, and bears spend more time foraging before hibernation. To help reduce collisions, it’s obvious that every driver has to be on the lookout for wildlife.

The first change of weather marks the beginning of the ­migration season for California’s wildlife, particularly elk and deer. Many of California’s roadways cut through these animals’ routes and it is vital that drivers be especially alert now through December to avoid collisions with wild animals. These crashes not only harm wildlife, but they can damage vehicles and cause injury and death to drivers and passengers.

“From September through December, wildlife often exhibit natural behaviors that can increase their movements and activity nearer to humans and roadways,” said DFW Conflict ­Programs Coordinator Vicky Monroe. “That makes large animals such as deer, bears and mountain lions more likely to be killed or injured by wildlife-vehicle collisions.”

According to the California Highway Patrol, 15 people died and 810 people were injured in 4,368 collisions with animals on state, county and local roadways throughout California between 2017 and 2018. The UC Davis Road Ecology Center estimates the total annual cost of animal-vehicle conflicts in California to be at least $307 million in 2018.

There’s quite a list of projects underway statewide for wildlife of all types in all parts of California, sponsored by CalTrans, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and other partners.

In partnership with the Western Transportation Institute, Caltrans recently completed a hotspot analysis that identifies the stretches of California highways with the highest frequencies of deer-vehicle collisions. This project will help determine where potential improvements may be needed to improve roadway safety.

No matter what is done by state or federal agencies, the ultimate responsibility to avoid a collision with wildlife lies with the driver of the vehicle. Keep your eyes open, be particularly watchful and slow down during daybreak and sunset hours. If you see one animal, there’s likely to be more around. Avoiding a collision with an animal the size of a deer can not only save you thousands of dollars in repair bills, but may save your life.

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