November brings increased risk of vehicle-deer collisions: Utah DWR shares safety tips
SALT LAKE CITY — With the end of daylight saving time on November 5, Utahns may relish the extra hour of sleep but should also be aware of the increased risk of vehicle-wildlife collisions during the evening commutes. The darker, lower-visibility hours are due to the time change and the fall season, which brings more wildlife activity to the roads.
The surge in wildlife near roadways is largely attributed to big game animals migrating to lower elevations in search of food. For deer, migration occurs twice a year, primarily in April and May, and then again in October and November. It’s during these latter months when Utah sees the highest number of vehicle-deer collisions.
“The peak time to hit deer in Utah is during November,” warns Blair Stringham, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Migration Initiative Coordinator. “It coincides with mating season and the annual migration of deer. Animals are crossing more roads during the migration, and male deer move around a lot more to find mates. The shorter daylight hours during this time of year compound the problem, leading to reduced visibility for drivers.”
The most recent study on deer-vehicle collisions in Utah dates back to 2012, which recorded around 10,000 such accidents that year. While the exact number is likely to be lower now, it’s due to the combined efforts of installing more wildlife fences and bridges along migration routes across Utah highways as part of the Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative.
Launched in 2017, the Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative was created to better track and study the migration patterns of various wildlife and fish species in the state. Using GPS tracking devices for animals and implanted transmitters for fish, Utah is the only state that includes fish tracking in its migration program. This tracking data benefits wildlife by helping biologists identify the animals’ feeding locations, enabling habitat improvements. The data is also crucial for pinpointing migration routes and ensuring the construction of wildlife crossings in strategic locations, such as highway and river crossings.
As of October 17, Utah had already reported over 3,000 deer-vehicle collisions this year. These accidents are more frequent during the early morning and evening hours, coinciding with busy commuting times and poor lighting conditions that make it difficult for drivers to spot deer in their path.
Safety Measures to Avoid Wildlife Collisions
As daylight saving time comes to a close, Wild Aware Utah offers some valuable tips to help you steer clear of wildlife collisions:
- Stay Alert at Dawn and Dusk: Wildlife is most active during these hours.
- Heed Wildlife Crossing Signs: Pay attention to signs placed in high-risk areas.
- Be Vigilant Near Natural Areas: Exercise caution on roadways near wooded, agricultural, and wetland areas, as well as near lakes and streams.
- Scan Both Sides of the Road: Invite passengers to help keep an eye out for wildlife.Drive Distraction-Free: Put away food, phones, and other distractions.
- Use High-Beam Headlights: Illuminate the road more effectively, when conditions allow.\
- Look for Eyeshine: Spot an animal’s eyeshine from a distance, and slow down once you see it.
- Beware of Groups: Some animals travel in packs; watch for more if you spot one.
- Don’t Litter: Trash and food scraps can lure animals to the road, so keep your vehicle clean.
What to Do if You Encounter an Animal on the Road
If you see an animal on or near the road, follow these guidelines:
- Don’t Swerve: Do not swerve your vehicle for a deer or small animals. Stay in your lane and slow down.
- Honk and Flash Lights:** If multiple animals are obstructing the road, honk your horn and flash your lights to encourage them to move.
- Stay Cautious: If an animal has crossed the road, continue to drive slowly, as it might attempt to cross again.
If you happen to hit an animal on the road, here’s what to do:
- Pull Over: If your car is still drivable, pull over and use your hazard lights.
- Do Not Approach the Injured Animal: Never attempt to approach an injured animal.
- Call for Help: Dial 911 or contact your local police department if you’re injured or if the animal poses a threat to public safety.
- Use the Utah Roadkill Reporter App: Report the collision through the Utah Roadkill Reporter app. Include the species of the animal, GPS location, and a photo of the animal. Never use the app while driving, and avoid getting out of your vehicle along busy roads for safety reasons.
By submitting a collision report through the Utah Roadkill Reporter app, you contribute valuable information for identifying potential wildlife crossing areas. This data aids the Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative in understanding the migration patterns of various animal species in Utah better.
Utahans are urged to exercise caution as they navigate the roads during November, staying vigilant for both the end of daylight saving time and the increase in wildlife activity. These safety measures will help reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions and contribute to the protection of both human and animal life on Utah’s roads.