Vehicle collisions with animals have increased significantly in the last ten years. In Alberta, for example, the number of vehicle-animal collisions rose from 6,451 collisions in 1992 to 11,623 in 2003, an increase of about 80 percent. On average, five people die in Alberta each year as a result of a collision with an animal, wild or domesticated.
According to the Ontario Road Safety Annual Report, in 2003, 13,835 animal-vehicle collisions were reported in that province, up from fewer than 13,000 in 2002. It notes that many more go unreported. Of these collisions, 13,321 involved property damage, 510 resulted in personal injuries and 4 in deaths.
According to a recent US insurance survey, Pennsylvania ranks first among the top ten “worst states” for vehicle-deer collisions, experiencing more deer collisions than any other state between July 1, 2004, and June 30, 2005. This survey estimates that 1.5 million vehicles collide with deer every year in the US, resulting in 150 motorists’ deaths and $1.1 billion in vehicle damages.
Not surprisingly, the statistics show the majority of these collisions occur in rural areas. In Alberta, 90 percent of the vehicle-animal collisions occurred in rural areas. About 95 percent of the reported collisions involve deer, moose, or elk. This seems to be the pattern throughout North America, wherever there are large populations of deer.
Wild animals like moose and deer are near roads because they eat the roadside vegetation, they are attracted to road salt, at certain times of the year they are looking for mates, and because the roads may cut through their migration routes. Some biologists have suggested that the number of moose and deer collisions is increasing in many areas because of revitalized herds, lost habitat, increased traffic, and expanded highways.
Urban motorists, however, also need to be alert to this risk. Many wildlife species are thriving in urban settings. One webpage dealing with the issue of animal-vehicle collisions, under the heading of “Saving Lives on the Road” lists birds, possums, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, snakes, frogs, and bears as urban dwellers creating a risk for on roadways in populated areas.
In the BC Lower Mainland snakes and possums may not be on the list, but we can add coyotes and perhaps cougars.
Cats and dogs remain the most at risk from motor vehicles. The webpage mentioned above reports that in the U.S., “Cars kill about 5.4 million cats per year – more, by a million-plus, than are killed in U.S. animal shelters … [and about] 1.2 million dogs” a year. Most cats are hit at night typically because they confuse the end of the beams from headlights with the car itself and think it’s safe to dash out once the initial lights go by. Dogs typically get into trouble by dashing out to chase something – a ball, cat, or squirrel.
There are lots of unexpected challenges on the roadway. Please drive safely.
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