Fall—the time of year when people break out their old blankets and hot beverages, and trade their sandals for boots. No matter where you are in North America, most people enjoy lower temperatures and beautiful fall colors. But along with the cooler weather comes the increased likelihood that you could hit a deer while driving.
Photo: Tabor Chichakly
September through November is mating season for deer, with peak activity taking place in October. As deer get ready for winter and look for a mate, they move more frequently across larger distances. This, coupled with fewer hours of daylight, increases the likelihood of deer-vehicle collisions. As roads fragment natural habitat and individual driving increases, so does the opportunity for a run-in to take place. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 1 million car crashes are attributed to wildlife collisions, costing nearly $1 billion in vehicle, medical, and state services.
Fortunately less than 4.6% of incidents result in human injury, but what does that mean for animal populations?
When wild animals are killed by traffic it not only results in the immediate decrease in that species’ numbers, but also diminishes the viability for healthy, diverse populations of that species. Habitat fragmentation already poses challenges to wildlife, such as infrequent food distribution, unstable water security, decreased mate probability and territory loss.
The good news is that there are efforts to mitigate the segmentation of habit and to decrease animal collisions. The primary approach to reducing collisions is influencing wildlife behavior with fences, underpasses, and overpasses allow wildlife to continue to move throughout the landscape.
One of these large scale efforts is the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act introduced in May 2019. The act would:
- designate wildlife corridors managed for the persistence, resilience, and adaptability of native species
- mitigate harm to wildlife and threats to public safety where wildlife corridors cross roadways by implementing wildlife overpasses and underpasses and other strategies
- manage and protect wildlife corridors and provide incentives for private landowners to protect wildlife corridors using funds from Department of Agriculture conservation programs.
Alongside a network of partners like Patagonia, Osprey and Petzl, and policymakers like Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Wildlands Network has spearheaded efforts to advocate for this bill, using science to inform policy changes. It’s legislation like this that could help decrease the number of animal vehicle collisions and ensure a more wild future for all.
Here’s what you can do to help:
1. Know what areas you’re traveling.
Being familiar with your environment can help you gauge the potential for a collision. Is the road you’re on two-lanes or a highway? Are you on a long flat stretch of road? These roads are the most common for wildlife vehicle collisions.
2. Watch for signs!
In areas where signs have been placed, collisions can be reduced by 34%. And these don’t just include deer—elk, moose, and antelope crossings are also commonly warned on roads.
3. Be aware of your driving times.
Most collisions happen at dusk and dawn, and with daylight significantly decreasing in the fall, October-December is the most likely time to hit a deer.
4. Drive responsibly.
If you are driving during those times, slow down a bit. This will allow your eyes to more easily spot deer on the side of the road, and may help you avoid a collision altogether. If a deer does jump out unexpectedly, remember: do not swerve.
5. Help fund mitigation efforts.
Organizations like Wildlands Network work alongside state and federal governments to implement signage, fences, and large wildlife crossings.
Leer este artículo en español: Cinco Maneras de Mantenerse Alejado de los Ciervos Mientras Conduces Este Otoño