Oh deer: Tips for avoiding wildlife on highways
Fencing along highway helps, but there are a lot of fence-free roads out there
It's that time of year again — more and more wild animals are roaming the roads and drivers need to be on high alert.
"Be extra cautious at dusk and dawn," said Kristin Elton, outreach co-ordinator for Watch for Wildlife, a vehicle collision prevention program of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation.
"This is the time they tend to be out and moving about."
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Elton said the spike in moose and deer collisions across the province this time of year is because animals go through behavioural changes and become more active, aggressive and less cautious.
"They're going from place to place and a road they might normally try to avoid, if there's incentive, this time of year they're more likely to take that chance," he said.
Be extra cautious
Elton advises drivers to watch their speed, as most collisions happen when vehicles are travelling more than 80 km/h.
It's also important to scan ahead for movements, bright eyes or dark shapes along the road.
And when drivers do see signs warning of deer or moose, they shouldn't ignore them.
"I know it's really easy for us as drivers to get habituated to these signs that we see if we drive a road every single day," she said.
Wildlife fencing is helpful in some parts of the province, she said, but there's a lot of road in New Brunswick without it.
About 400 drivers collide with moose in New Brunswick each year.
In September of last year, Brian Carty, a highly regarded St. Thomas University professor, died in a collision involving a moose shortly before 9 p.m. near Memramcook.
No drastic movements
Drivers who do see deer or moose along the highway — if they can — should brake if it's safe and keep the steering wheel straight, Elton said.
"If you do see one, be aware that there's probably more off on the sides that you're not seeing."
When a collision can't be avoided, it's important not to make any drastic movements, such as swerving into the left or right lane.
And it's important to stay in control of the vehicle, Elton said.
"If you can brake, it will usually give the animal a bit of time to get out of the way or at least you'll only hit them at a glancing blow, which will do less damage," she said.
If there's going to be a collision, drivers should try — if it's safe — to steer their vehicle to the side the animal is coming from.
Think of the animal
"Hopefully, you'll just hit a leg … where it won't topple the animal on top of you," she said.
After a collision, if the impact has not injured the driver or anyone else in the car, Elton recommended thinking about the affected animal.
Drivers should put on their hazard lights, pull over and report the incident to the appropriate provincial government department, RCMP or a local wildlife rescue centre, such as the Atlantic Wildlife Institute.
This is particularly helpful if the animal has died and may have young nearby, as the young animals may not be able to live on their own.