November Is Peak Season for Deer on Colorado Roads
In late fall through winter, deer, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep find their way onto roads, especially in Colorado, and drivers need to be especially careful, to avoid crashes, writes Stephen Meyers for The Coloradan. “Collisions with wildlife rank third behind speeding and inattentive driving as the leading causes of crashes in Colorado,” Meyers writes.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), there are more vehicle accidents in the state involving wild animals in November than any other month, Meyers writes. The animals hit the roadways because of a combination of factors, including mating season, daylight savings time, and 200,000 hunters, Meyers writes.
During mating season, the male animals pursue the females aggressively, and might not be fazed by vehicular traffic, Meyers writes. In Colorado there are an average of 3,605 wildlife-vehicle collisions per year, most of which are with deer or elk, Meyers reports. In 2013, according to CDOT’s annual roadkill report, 4,706 such animals were killed in road accidents, more than half of those animals being deer, Meyers writes.
In a Wired article headlined “Horny Deer Make November Driving Risky,” Gwen Pearson writes:
Most of those collisions happen in November because deer are on the move, looking for a hook-up. As days get shorter, male testosterone production increases. Fall is rut season, and male deer roam widely in search of females.
Meyers writes that collisions with bears are also common, particularly at dawn and dusk. She quotes Brian Dreher, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist, as saying that bears, which need as many as 20,000 calories a day, are always moving around in search of food, especially at night, making them more prone to getting hit by cars.
Vehicles in the state also hit small animals, Meyers writes. About 700 animals killed in car accidents last year were dogs, cats, squirrels, skunks, badgers, and other small mammals, she adds. Collisions involving vehicles and wild animals can injure or even kill humans, Meyers writes. In 2013, 3,183 such accidents damaged vehicles, 250 injured humans, and four of them involved fatalities, she writes.
- To prevent accidents involving wildlife, officials offer the following tips, as Meyers reports:
- Follow nighttime speed limits in migration corridors
- Be alert to surroundings and look ahead for movement along roadsides
- When driving to observe wild animals, make sure to pull safely to the side of the road before looking at them
- Drive slowly in known wildlife areas
- If you see one animal, be prepared for more
- Brake but don’t swerve
- Use high beams and look for highlighted animal eyes
Pearson reports that Utah wildlife researcher Daniel Olsen has created an app to help contractors locate dead animals on roads via GPS coordinates, which saves them data entry time and has improved data accuracy by as much as 19%. The live maps of dead animals has helped the Utah Department of Transportation to quickly respond and take action, Pearson writes.
In addition, there is an app for “regular folks,” Pearson writes. Called AvoiDeer, it was created in Norway and is now for sale in the U.S. It crowd-sources sightings of elk, moose, and deer, and alerts app users when they are approaching an area where wild animals have been seen on the road. However, Pearson cautions: “Crowdsourcing the location of dead things by drivers also creates a new risk: entering data on a smartphone while one drives.”
Another way to prevent wild animals from colliding with vehicles is to create a wildlife corridor, Pearson suggests. She notes that one built under the Trans-Canada highway — allowing moose, wolves, cougars, and bears to safely cross the road — reduced roadkills of elk, moose, and deer by 96%. Unfortunately, that corridor did not prevent smaller animals like snakes, turtles, frogs, and amphibians from getting hit. “There is also the quite disturbing finding that many drivers deliberately target smaller animals and run them over on purpose,” Pearson writes.
Image by Bradley Gordon