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Wildlife-vehicle collisions increase in winter

By Randy Hampton
Special to The SUN

Wildlife may not have to wrestle with changing the time on their microwave oven, but the weather and human clock changes can pose some challenges for animals moving to lower elevations in advance of the coming winter. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reminding drivers that with dusk arriving earlier, the chances increase for collisions with deer and elk on Colorado’s roads.

“November is a dangerous month for motorists and wildlife,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Watchable Wildlife Coordinator John Koshak. “Commuters will be driving at dusk when visibility is poor and when wildlife is most active.”

Koshak noted that along with reduced visibility for drivers, deer are also more vulnerable because November is the peak of the mating season, resulting in more mobile, easily distracted animals, he said.

He also cautioned drivers to be aware that deer and elk often travel in herds.

“If you see one animal on the road, generally there’s another one coming,” Koshak said.

During the fall months, large groups of deer and elk will move from high-altitude summer range into low-elevation valleys where they can more readily find food to survive the winter. Those lower valleys are also where many roads and communities are found, increasing the likelihood of human-wildlife conflicts such as vehicle collisions.

If an animal is hit, wildlife officials advise drivers to report the incident to law enforcement and call 911 if there are any human injuries.

While some collisions may be unavoidable, motorists can reduce the likelihood of an accident by taking the following precautions:

Slow down!  Driving more slowly increases reaction time and reduces the chance of a collision.

Stay alert while driving at dusk and dawn. This is when many of Colorado’s wildlife species are the most active and are likely to be crossing roadways.

Scan ahead and watch for movement along roadsides. When driving at night, watch for shining eyes reflecting in headlights. Always look and be prepared for more than one animal.

Obey traffic signs and watch for wildlife warning signs.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife requires that people who wish to salvage road kill apply for a roadkill permit within 48 hours.

Wildlife-related accidents can happen anywhere in Colorado including city streets; however, drivers should be especially cautious when traveling through forests and agricultural land, as well as in “high-risk” areas in the state. Among those high-risk sections of roadway is U.S. 160, from Pagosa Springs to Cortez and U.S. 550, north of Durango, to Delta.

This story was posted on November 7, 2013.