Daylight Savings Time might make the days longer, but that means many people will be behind the wheel on dark mornings when deer and other wildlife are on or near the road.
During the winter, there is an increase in wildlife along the roadways, primarily due to big game animals migrating to lower elevations in search of feed, according to Daniel Olson, wildlife migration initiative coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The migration period for deer is typically April and May, and then again in November, which, coincidentally, is when the highest number of vehicle and deer collisions occur, Olson said.
According to a DWR study, there were approximately 10,000 crashes involving motorists and wildlife in 2012, Olson said. However, he estimates those numbers are lower now due to an increase in fencing and wildlife bridges that have been installed along migration routes across Utah highways.
Olson said deer are more active early in the morning and in the evenings, which coincides with busy commuting hours. This is also when low-light conditions make it difficult for drivers to see.
How to avoid wildlife collisions
As daylight saving time begins, here are some tips from the organization Wild Aware Utah to help you avoid wildlife collisions:
- Be especially alert at dawn and dusk.
- Heed wildlife crossing signs. These signs are usually placed in areas known to have a high volume of wildlife/vehicle crashes.
- Be alert on roads near wooded, agricultural and wetland areas and also near lakes and streams.
- Scan both sides of the road. Invite passengers to help watch for wildlife.
- Do not drive distracted. Put away food, phones and other distractions.
- When possible, use high beam headlights to illuminate the road.
- Look for an animal’s eyeshine, which can be seen from a distance. Slow down once you have spotted an animal near the roadside.
- Some animals travel in groups, so be sure to watch for additional animals if you see one.
What to do if you see an animal near or in the road
- Do not swerve for a deer or small animal. Stay in the lane and slow down.
- If several animals are standing in the road, do not try to drive through them or get out of the vehicle to chase or herd them. Honk your horn and flash your lights to encourage them to move on.
- If an animal has crossed the road, continue to drive slowly and be cautious because it may try to cross again.
What to do if you hit an animal
- Do not approach an injured animal.
- Call 911 or contact the local police department if there are human injuries or if the animal is in the road and could pose a threat to public safety.
For more information about wildlife/vehicle crashes or deer migration, contact Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org.