Tips to avoid deer vs vehicle collisions

March 14, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY — Now that everyone has “sprung forward” with the recent time change most people will notice that evenings will have more light, but mornings will be darker, which means a lot of Utahns will be commuting during lower-visibility morning hours. During early hours, be wary of wandering animals.

During the winter, there is an increase in wildlife along the roadways, primarily due to big game animals migrating to lower elevations in search of feed, according to Daniel Olson, wildlife migration initiative coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).

The migration period for deer is typically April and May, and then again in November which, coincidentally, is when the highest number of vehicle and deer collisions occur, Olson said.

“The peak time to hit deer is around November,” Olson said. “It coincides with mating season and the migration. Animals are crossing more roads during the migration, and male deer move around a lot more to find mates.”

According to a DWR study, there were approximately 10,000 wildlife vs vehicle collisions in 2012, Olson said. However, he estimates those numbers are lower now due to an increase in fencing and wildlife bridges that have been installed along migration routes across Utah highways.

Olson said deer are more active early in the morning and in the evenings, which coincides with busy commuting hours. This is also when low-light conditions make it difficult for drivers to see.

How to avoid wildlife

Here are some tips from Wild Aware Utah to help drivers avoid wildlife collisions:

• Be especially alert at dawn and dusk.

• Heed wildlife crossing signs. These signs are usually placed in areas known to have a high volume of wildlife/vehicle collisions.

• Be alert on roadways near wooded, agricultural and wetland areas and also near lakes and streams.

• Scan both sides of the road. Invite passengers to help watch for wildlife.

• Do not drive distracted. Put away food, phones and other distractions.

• When possible, use high beam headlights to illuminate the road.

• Look for an animal’s eyeshine, which can be seen from a distance. Slow down once an animal has been spotted near the roadside.

• Some animals travel in groups, so be sure to watch for additional animals if one has been seen.

• Do not throw trash out of any vehicle. Trash and food scraps can draw animals to roadways.

If animal is seen

If an animal is seen near the road, here are some additional suggestions:

• Do not swerve for a deer or small animal. Stay in the lane and slow down.

• If several animals are standing in the road, do not try to drive through them or get out of the vehicle to chase or herd them. Honk the horn and flash the lights to encourage them to move on.

• If an animal has crossed the road, continue to drive slowly and be cautious because it may try to cross again.

If animal is hit

What to do if an animal is hit with the vehicle:

• Pull off the road and use the hazard lights if the car is undriveable.

• Do not try to approach an injured animal.

• Call 911 or contact the local police department if there are injuries or if the animal is in the roadway and could pose a threat to public safety.

For more information about wildlife/vehicle collisions or deer migration, contact the DWR wildlife migration initiative coordinator Daniel Olson at danielolson@utah.gov.