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Drive With Wildlife In Mind

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Friday, October 21, 2011

The ability to detect wildlife when you are behind the wheel is an essential skill in Montana where automobile collisions with wildlife are common.

Most wildlife collisions occur at dawn and dusk. Deer are most often involved, though collisions with moose, elk, bighorn sheep, bears, coyotes and wolves also occur.

What can a driver do to be safe, while also sparing the state’s wildlife?

Most experts emphasize making a conscious effort to scan for wildlife on the road, in the ditch, and on the shoulders of the road continuously.

According to Montana Highway Patrol troopers, driving with eyes focused at a fixed distance ahead is one of the most common driving errors. Instead, continuously scan ahead and to either side of the road to catch slight movements that may indicate the presence of a safety hazard.

Some experts also suggest watching for a flicker in the headlamps of oncoming cars. That flicker can be advance warning that an animal is crossing the road in front of the oncoming vehicle.

Here are some other wildlife-oriented driving tips.

  • Be especially watchful from dusk to dawn when animals are most active. Avoid driving on cruise control during these hours.
  • Use extra caution near posted deer crossings. These areas are traditional crossings that wildlife use to reach food, water and shelter. The sign marks the general area of a crossing so be alert for the next couple of miles.
  • Be aware that deer and elk rarely travel alone. When one deer crosses the road, prepare to avoid others that may follow or those standing at the edge of the road.
  • Be especially watchful for wildlife along rural roads where roadside brush may obstruct your view.
  • If you do hit a deer, elk or other big game animal, remember that it is against the law to possess or transport the animal, or any portion of it, including the antlers.

For help, and to report the collision, call the city police, county sheriff, or the Montana Highway Patrol, depending on where the accident occurs.

If the animal is seriously injured but still alive, ask that an FWP game warden or other law enforcement officer be sent to dispatch the animal and safely remove it from the road.

Do not attempt to tend to an injured wild animal as they can be very dangerous and unpredictable.