Give Wildlife a “Brake,” and six more ways to lower your risk of hitting an animal*

October through December is mating season for deer, and they may throw caution to the wind while chasing after (or running away from) a potential mate.

Animals are forced to cross roads and highways in search of food, water, cover, and mates—placing them squarely in the path of our speeding vehicles. [Days are getting shorter and dusk is coming earlier, which increases the risk of encountering animals that are out and about at that time. Our recent dog walks have brought us to the bodies of a handsome six-point buck and two does, all within “striking range” of a nearby curve in the road.]

So what can you do? First and foremost, slow down! Keeping your speed in check gives you a better chance of stopping in time if an animal darts into the road.

Read and share these life-saving tips, [reprinted from the Humane Society of the United States], especially with younger drivers you know. (Reports suggest that young adults ages 15-24 have the highest injury rate of any age group from car accidents involving large animals.)

  • Follow speed limits. Many animals are hit simply because people drive too fast to avoid them. This makes the roads safer for other drivers and pedestrians, too.
  • Watch for wildlife in and near the road at dawn, dusk, and in the first few hours after darkness. Keep in mind that where there is one animal, there are probably others—young animals following their mother or male animals pursuing a female.
  • Be especially cautious on two-lane roads bordered by woods or fields, or where streams cross under roads. Most animal/vehicle collisions occur on these roads. Slow down to 45 mph or less.
  • Scan the road as you drive, watching the edges for wildlife about to cross. This will also make you more aware of other hazards such as bicyclists, children at play, and slowly moving vehicles.
  • Don’t throw trash out car windows. Discarded food pollutes the environment and creates a hazard by attracting wildlife to the roads.
  • Use your high beams whenever possible.
  • Lower your dashboard lights slightly. You’ll be more likely to see your headlights reflected in the eyes of animals in time to brake.

How to Help Injured Animals

Sometimes collisions are unavoidable, no matter how careful we are. Here’s what to do if you hit an animal or come across an injured one:

  • Do not put your own safety at risk. Unless you can move the animal from the road in absolute safety, do not attempt to do so. Use your hazard lights or emergency road flares to warn oncoming traffic of the injured animal. Never attempt to handle a large animal, like a deer, or one that could give a serious bite, like a raccoon.
  • Call someone with the proper training and equipment. When you need assistance, call the non-emergency number of the local police department (program the phone number into your cell phone right now so you have it when you need it) and describe the animal’s location. Emphasize that the injured animal is a traffic hazard to help ensure that someone will come quickly. Stay in the area until help arrives.
  • Use heavy gloves to protect yourself or avoid direct handling if you try to rescue a small animal yourself. Remember that the animal doesn’t know you are trying to help and may bite or scratch in self-defense. An old towel is helpful if you need to move an injured animal.
  • Gently coax or place the animal into a cardboard box and transport him/her to an animal shelter, wildlife rehabilitator, or a receptive veterinarian. If there is a delay, keep the animal in a dark, warm, quiet place to minimize fear and stress.
  • If you accidentally kill an animal, try to move the animal off the road—but only if you can do so in complete safety. Otherwise, report the location of the animal’s body to the local police department, and it will arrange for removal. This will prevent scavengers from being attracted onto the road and eliminate a potential traffic hazard.

*Reprinted from The Humane Society of the United States, http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/give_wildlife_brake.html

[comments in brackets added by Nancy Schluntz]

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"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
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