This time of year, the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions typically peak as animals start migrating to winter habitat, mating season begins for deer and elk, and bears spend more time foraging before hibernation. To help reduce collisions, Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) remind motorists to be on the lookout during Watch Out for Wildlife Week, which runs Sept. 15-21.
Watch Out for Wildlife Week marks the beginning of the migration season for Californiaâ€™s wildlife, particularly elk and deer. Many of Californiaâ€™s roadways cut through these animalsâ€™ routes. It is vital that drivers be especially alert now through December to avoid collisions with wild animals. These crashes not only harm wildlife, but they can damage vehicles and cause injury and death to drivers and passengers.
â€œCaltrans is dedicated to improving the safety of California drivers, which includes being responsible when it comes to the environment,â€ said Caltrans Acting Director Bob Franzoia. â€œThis can mean installing flashing warning signs and building ramps and larger culverts for safer passage over and under our roads.â€
â€œFrom September through December, wildlife often exhibit natural behaviors that can increase their movements and activity nearer to humans and roadways,â€ said CDFW Conflict Programs Coordinator Vicky Monroe. â€œThat makes large animals such as deer, bears and mountain lions more likely to be killed or injured by wildlife-vehicle collisions.â€
According to the California Highway Patrol, 15 people died and 810 people were injured in 4,368 collisions with animals on state, county and local roadways throughout California between 2017 and 2018. The UC Davis Road Ecology Center estimates the total annual cost of animalâ€“vehicle conflicts in California to be at least $307 million in 2018.
Wildlife experts offer the following tips for motorists:
- Be extra alert when driving near areas wildlife frequent, such as streams and rivers, and reduce your speed especially around curves.
- Donâ€™t text and drive! Leave your phone alone; it can wait.
- Pay extra attention driving during the morning and evening hours when wildlife are often most active.
- If you see an animal on or near the road, know that others may be following.
- Donâ€™t litter. Trash and food odors can attract animals to roadways.
- Pay attention to road shoulders. Look for movement or reflecting eyes. Slow down and honk your horn if you see an animal on or near the road.
- Respect wildlife. California is their home too.
The Watch Out for Wildlife campaign is supported by Caltrans, CDFW, Defenders of Wildlife and the UC Davis Road Ecology Center.