According to Ontario Ministry of Transportation statistics, over 10,000 car collisions involving wildlife occur every year. This number reflects only those collisions that are reported and generally involve larger animals such as deer, moose, and bear; there are countless other accidents involving smaller wild animals that go unreported. Fortunately most of these accidents can be avoided with a few simple precautions:
Be careful at dawn and dusk
The majority of wildlife-related vehicle accidents in Ontario occur in the early morning hours and at sunset. This may be due to poor road visibility at these times. It is important for drivers to remain alert and watch for wildlife who may be on the road, especially when turning corners, going over a hill, or in rainy and foggy conditions.Reducing your speed also means more reaction time should an animal run in front of the car. Be extra careful if you are driving in rural areas where there may be more wildlife. Defensive driving could also help avoid hitting an animal.
No food on the road
Throwing food or wrappers out of car windows may endanger animals by attracting them onto the road. Be sure to also put out your garbage the morning of collection,rather than the night before, and use wildlife-proof containers to prevent animals from lingering on the roadside.
Watch for warning signs
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation places warning signs in areas where deer and moose collisions are common (i.e., where at least four animals have been hit in the past). Collisions with large animals such as these are especially dangerous and often result in suffering because the animal is often seriously injured, but not killed, by the vehicle. You can buy an ultrasonic device (available at hardware stores) that emits a sound inaudible to humans, but which frightens large animals. They will run away instead of remaining frozen in the middle of the road.
Plan wildlife-friendly roads
Call or write to your local government to urge them to plan roads with the interests of wildlife in mind, such as:
- Lowering speed limits, especially on highways that pass through parks and forests
- Clearing grass and shrubs from the shoulders of roads
- Planning highways away from areas of dense wildlife populations
- Putting fences along roads or the tree line
Help an injured animal
Often, concerned drivers don’t know what to do when they pass injured animals on a road. If it seems unsafe to stop, find a telephone as soon as possible and call for help. Dial the operator for assistance if needed to find the number. If you are able to stop and assist an injured animal, be careful. Wild animals do not understand that you are trying to help them and they may bite in self-defense. You can carry these items in your car in case of emergency:
- Ventilated cardboard box or cardboard cat carrier
- Towel, blanket and pillow case
- Protective eyewear
- Rubber gloves or thick work gloves
- Thin board to use as a stretcher
- Rubber mat to handle porcupines
If you can safely do so, pull over to the shoulder and turn on your four-way flashing lights. If you do not feel comfortable handling the animal and you have a cell phone, call for assistance. If the animal appears non-aggressive and is small enough to carry, carefully place her in a towel-lined box and drive to Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre, a vet office, a nearby rehabilitation centre, or a Humane Society.
Otherwise, carefully place the animal on the stretcher board and drag him off the road. Moving dead animals to the side of the road can also prevent further accidents. An animal’s mate or young are at risk if they venture out onto the road in an attempt to help their family member.