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Editorial: Wildlife collisions higher in fall

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports October is the busiest month for vehicle-wildlife collisions — and a short drive up Browns Creek and back to The Dalles via Cherry Heights Road bears out their warning: Six deer dead on the roadside, two together on one corner.

Why did the deer cross the road? Because a car was coming.

The approach at speed of a monster with glowing eyes isn’t something a prey species can accept with complacence. A deer in new territory can easily find the near escape blocked as a car approaches — perhaps by a fence or steep bank — and will dash into traffic seeking a safe route.

Yearlings following their mothers may also rush to cross as danger approaches, an instinctive response that doesn’t take into account vehicle speeds of 40 miles per hour or more.

With deer and elk forming herds and on the move due to breeding season and migration to winter ranges, more wildlife are crossing roads in the fall, ODFW reports.

The Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Transportation, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife urge motorists to be on alert and be ready to slow down.

Signs placed in particularly popular areas for wildlife crossing are one tool to help drivers avoid collisions.

Being especially watchful around sunrise and sunset is another tip that can help reduce vehicle-wildlife incidents. Wildlife undercrossings are another way to help save lives.

According to statistics from ODOT’s Crash Analysis and Reporting Section, there are about 1,250 wildlife-involved traffic collisions each year in Oregon. In 2014, there were 1,243 reported crashes involving wildlife, resulting in two people being killed.

In 2013, there were 1,274 such crashes with three fatalities, and in 2012, 1,283 crashes with three fatalities.

Officials believe the numbers are actually higher because most collisions involving wildlife result in property damage only and do not get reported to police or DMV.

For example, ODOT’s southern Oregon dispatch center received 2,591 calls about dead animals on or near roads in 2014. The central Oregon dispatch center received another 2,591 calls.

Combined with ODOT’s other dispatch centers, in 2014 there were 6,629 calls reporting wildlife incidents/animals near roads — compared to the 1,243 that were reported as crashes. In 2013, the number of calls statewide was 5,842.

The statistics show that crashes can and do occur everywhere in the state – in both rural and urban settings.

The following information may help reduce these incidents:

• The annual deer rut season typically lasts from late October to mid-to-late November, increasing deer activity in and around roadways.

• During the next few months there will be fewer daylight hours and visibility will be challenged by darkness and winter weather conditions.

• Be extra careful in areas where there is a lot of vegetation next to the road or while going around curves.

• Wildlife near the road may not be visible. The presence of any type of animal could also mean that others are nearby.

• When you see an animal near or on the roadway, reduce speed and try to stay in your lane.

• Many serious crashes are the result of drivers swerving to avoid wildlife or other obstacles and they crash into another vehicle or lose control of their own vehicle.

• The same advice applies for smaller wildlife like raccoons — stay in your lane and do not swerve; losing control of your vehicle is a larger concern.

• Most importantly, slow down at the slightest hint of wildlife – of any kind – as you drive in Wasco and Sherman counties this fall.


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