One out of every three crashes in northeastern Ontario involves wildlife. Collisions occur most often in moose or deer habitat such as forested areas and waterways. This impacts cottagers and those of us who own rural property, as our property is generally located within forested areas. Moose and deer cross roads for a wide variety of reasons, several times a year. Most of the time, they want to get to another area of their habitat. Hunting and mating season are also popular times for deer and moose movement.
Traffic collisions involving wildlife are so prevalent and dangerous that the Ministry of Transportation is undertaking special measures in some parts of cottage country. Installing fences and highway lighting, posting warning signs and draining the salty ponds that form near the sides of the highways (moose and deer love to lick the salt off the highways during the winter) are just some of the measures that are being taken.
Along Hwy 540 in Manitoulin Island are reflectors where, when headlights shine on them, they are supposed to emulate a wolf’s eyes and startle away the deer.
Just south of Sudbury on Hwy 69 there is a 12 km stretch of highway with high fences keeping the animals off the highway and directing them to specified crossings such as river banks beneath bridges and overpasses.
Despite the Ministry’s best efforts, the chance of driving into a deer or a moose is quite high, especially in northern Ontario cottage country. Here is some fairly standard advice to help avoid traffic accidents with wildlife:
1. Avoid dusk and dawn – most wildlife collisions occur then;
2. Slow down – if a deer darts in front of you, assume there are more (they travel together);
3. Scan the road – use your high beams for the best visibility (look for the glowing eyes of animals); and,
4. Brake – if the animal is standing on the road hit the brakes but DO NOT swerve – it could result in a more serious collision.
Deer crossing signs are there to warn you that deer are often present in the area – take them seriously, it is not just your life at risk.