If you’re barreling down the road safely behind the wheel of your carbon-spewing steel-cage-contraption and “clip,” “wing” or “sideswipe” a soft-bodied deer trying to cross one of the ubiquitous roadways, even if it hobbles away looking “okay” you killed the poor creature. Maybe not outright and maybe not today, but you can bet that he or she won’t make it through too many cold nights without succumbing to his or her injuries.
The fact is, there are just far too many cars, driving far too fast for conditions (which include marked or unmarked deer crossings) for any semblance of sanity.
Just this morning, I had the displeasure of having to “put down” a wounded deer who had been staying in our hay shed for the past two nights. I knew he (one of his antlers was lost when the car or truck hit him) was wounded, but it wasn’t until he limped off yesterday morning dragging his broken and mangled hind leg that I knew for certain he had no hope of any natural recovery. The bone was protruding from the compound fracture which would never heal right on its own—and no vet around here would treat an injured deer since this county fancies itself a “trophy” mule deer area and deer are just a “resource.”
As much as I hate to take the life of any animal, I was forced to do what the deer ultimately wanted of me and end his suffering as quickly and humanely as possible. After the deed (I shot using a high-powered rifle with a scope through the open bathroom window), my wife and I rolled his lifeless body onto a tarp and slid it across the snow to a safe spot for scavengers to feed.
“Roadkill” is so prevalent in this valley that signs have been placed at either end of the highways leading into what should just be a deer wintering range warning motorists that the annual tally of deer deaths are 150+ (that figure updated yearly). But more ominous to most drivers is the estimated cost repairing their precious vehicles. Still, no dollar-value or loss of non-human life would convince most drivers they should change the speed limit to 25 or 35 miles-per-hour (as it’s marked and enforced through the towns).
I’m sure it would be considered heresy these days to demand an enforced 45 mph daytime speed limit on any highway bisecting any deer winter range, but that’s the kind of “extreme” step we’ll have to take if we want to go on using the name homo sapiens, meaning “intelligent ape,” and not be demoted to something reflecting recklessness or self-centered-ness—something like homo erraticus, homo psychopathicus, homo drive-too-fasticus or whatever type of homo scientists deem appropriate.
By CONNIE KUNTZ • OCT 28, 2020ShareTweetEmailA deer across the street from the WNIJ station on 1st St. in DeKalb.CREDIT CONNIE KUNTZ
It’s deer mating season. It’s also deer hunting season and the fall harvest. That means deer are out and about. They’re looking for love, safety and food — especially at dusk and dawn.ListenListening…0:49
Peggy Doty is an extension educator on the environmental and energy stewardship team for the University of Illinois Extension. When you are driving, she said to remember to slow down, give yourself extra space between vehicles, and, if it’s dark, scan the road for eyeshine.
“There’s a membrane in the eye right behind the retina in many animals — not in humans — and you’ll notice a lot of the animals that do have eyeshine tend to me more nocturnal.” She continued, “The little membrane acts like a mirror and bounces it [light] back.”
Doty explained that not all animal eyes glow the same.
“Deer tend to have a green reflective,” she said. “It has to do with chemicals in the membrane — you know, different substances, supposedly, and there’s varying amounts of pigments. I know for a fact that skunks have red eyes.”
Doty said you can even see this eyeshine in spiders.
“If you shine a light in the summer in the wet grass, and you see a little itty bitty bright light, chances are it’s the reflection from that little membrane of a spider,” she said, “It’s kind of a cool thing.”
Doty said scanning for eyeshine increases your awareness of roadside animals and improves your chances of avoiding a collision.
“I drive, looking for any shine,” she said. “Of course, then you see a reflective light on a poll and you’re like ‘Oh, it’s nothing, right?’ Some things are reflective from the Department of Transportation.”
But having that increased awareness may help you avoid a collision. Doty has never hit a deer.
If you do hit a deer, Doty warned, “You’re going to be frazzled.” She said the best thing to do is “find a safe place to pull over and put your hazards on and regroup.”
Doty said if you feel it’s necessary, call the police for assistance, but if you don’t, you still need to document the accident. And, no matter how curious you are, stay away from the animal.
“If it’s unconscious and jumps up, and it’s a full-size deer, you’re talking about them possibly bouncing off of your body,” she said. “It’s best to stay away.”
Furthermore, it is illegal for anyone except law enforcement to kill a crippled deer, so resist the urge to put it out of its misery.
Deer killed from a vehicle collision can be claimed by any Illinoisan. Call 217-782-6431 or visit deer.wildlifeillinois.org for more information about claiming road kill.
Accidents happen, but training your eye to scan for eyeshine is a big step in avoiding a collision. And if a deer should cross your path, don’t swerve to avoid it. Swerving could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or increase the severity of the crash. Instead, try to “glance” your vehicle off the deer. This could save your life.
In 2019, there were more than 16,000 deer accidents in Illinois. Most occurred in Cook, Madison, Sangamon, Will, Fulton, Peoria, Kane, Rock Island, Jacksn and Bureau counties. 604 of the accidents caused personal injuries and four of the deer-vehicle crashes resulted in human fatalities.
@DarrenmacdContactPublished Thursday, July 16, 2020 2:19PM EDTLast Updated Thursday, July 16, 2020 6:59PM EDT
The cubs were tranquilized and trapped so they could be safely transported to Bear With Us Centre for Bears, where they will be cared for and released next year. (Supplied)
SUDBURY — Two bear cubs have been taken to an animal sanctuary after their mother was killed by a vehicle in the Sudbury community of Garson last week.
A social media post by the city on Thursday said after their mom was killed, the two cubs scrambled up a tree in a nearby park.
“City parks staff spotted the cubs and called in Greater Sudbury Police and Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to help,” the city said. “These two beautiful cubs are in safe hands today after a frightening and tragic ordeal.”
Acknowledging the virus’s silver linings can feel ghoulish. But mounting evidence suggests that we’re in the midst of an unprecedented roadkill reprieve.BEN GOLDFARBJULY 6, 2020
Spring is a bloody season on American roads. Yearling black bears blunder over the asphalt in search of their own territories. In the West, herds of deer, elk, and pronghorn scamper across highways as they migrate from winter pastures to summer redoubts. A smaller-scale but no less epic journey transpires in the Northeast, where wood frogs, spotted salamanders, and eastern newts emerge from their winter hideaways and trek to ephemeral breeding pools on damp March nights, braving an unforgiving gantlet of cars along the way.
Among all creatures, it’s these amphibians—tiny, sluggish, determined—that are most vulnerable to roadkill. This year, though, their journey was considerably safer.
Greg LeClair, a graduate student at the University of Maine, leads The Big Night, a citizen science initiative in Maine through which volunteers tally up migrating frogs and salamanders and escort them across roads. This spring, he assumed that coronavirus concerns would shut down the project; instead, he rallied more participants than ever. “I think people were just home and had nothing else to do,” he told me. All of those volunteers found an amphibious bonanza. In previous years, LeClair said, the project’s participants counted just two live animals for every squashed one. This spring, they found about four survivors per victim. “The ratio of living animals to dead doubled,” LeClair marveled.https://f8b438117f75da65027ebf7524395299.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Maine’s amphibians are just one of the collateral beneficiaries of the novel coronavirus, which has ground civilization to a halt. Travel bans have confined many of us to our couches; post-apocalyptic photos of empty freeways have circulated on social media. With Homo sapiens sidelined, wildlife has tiptoed forth. Lions basked on a road in Kruger National Park, normally crowded with tourists. Wild boars rooted in Barcelona’s medians. Roadkill surveyors in places as far apart as Santa Barbara and South Africa told me they’ve seen fewer carcasses this year than ever before. In Costa Rica, where Daniela Araya Gamboa has conducted years of roadkill studies aimed at reducing the harm of cars, highways have become less perilous for ocelots, cryptic wildcats bejeweled with black spots. In the more than three months since the pandemic began, Araya recently told me, her project had logged only one slain ocelot. “We have an average of two ocelot roadkills each month during normal times,” she added.
The human cost of COVID-19 has, of course, been so incomprehensibly tragic that acknowledging the virus’s silver linings—the cleaner air, the forestalled carbon emissions—can feel ghoulish. But there’s no denying that the abrupt diminishment of human travel, a phenomenon scientists recently dubbed the “Anthropause,” has generated profound conservation benefits. Mounting evidence suggests that we’re in the midst of an unprecedented roadkill reprieve, a stay of execution for untold millions of wild creatures. “This is the biggest conservation action that we’ve taken, possibly ever, certainly since the national parks were formed,” Fraser Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis, told me. “There’s not a single other action that has saved that many animals.”
Roadkill’s decline is so significant precisely because its impacts are ordinarily so catastrophic. One recent study calculated that cars crush about 200 million birds and 30 million mammals in Europe every year; in the United States, the toll has been estimated, albeit imprecisely, at more than 1 million each day. In Brazil, researchers wrote in 2014, roadkill has surpassed hunting to become “the leading cause of direct, human-caused mortality among terrestrial vertebrates.”
Given the scope of the carnage, even a temporary respite can save an astonishing amount of wildlife. That’s what Shilling and his colleagues documented in a recent report that analyzed collision statistics and carcass-cleanup figures from the handful of states that systematically collect roadkill data. In California, they found, roadkill fell by 21 percent in the four weeks after the state issued its stay-at-home order in March. In Idaho, the reduction was 38 percent; in Maine, it was 44 percent. A year of reduced travel, Shilling estimated, would save perhaps 27,000 large animals in those three states alone.
And although state records focus on the hefty mammals that endanger drivers—deer, elk, moose, bears, and the like—they’re mum on smaller critters, such as snakes, frogs, and birds, all of which have likely thrived during COVID-19. “We’re measuring the large animals, but I suspect it’s true for all animals, including insects,” Shilling said. (In Texas, millions of monarch butterflies succumb to grilles and windshields during their migrations to Mexico.) Add up all those less conspicuous casualties and extrapolate globally, and it’s hardly a stretch to say that hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of wild animals will ultimately be spared because of the pandemic.
Nor is it just hyper-abundant animals, such as squirrels and raccoons, that are finding succor during the Anthropause. In California, the poster species for highways’ harms is the mountain lion, several populations of which may soon be protected under the state’s Endangered Species Act. Shilling found that mountain lion roadkill plummeted 58 percent after the shutdown. “When you’re talking about such small populations, you get even one cat taken out by roadkill, and that can spell doom,” Beth Pratt, the California director of the National Wildlife Federation, told me. The Anthropause isn’t merely protecting individual lives, it turns out—in some places, it may be safeguarding the persistence of entire species.
Although all available evidence suggests that net roadkill rates have dropped, it’s conceivable that, on some roads, deaths have actually ticked upward. For many species, cars—loud, terrifying, alien—deter animals from crossing altogether, leading one early road ecologist to describe traffic as a “moving fence.” In Oregon, researchers found that mule-deer collisions peaked at around 8,000 cars per day; beyond that threshold, the ungulates appeared to abandon their migration routes entirely rather than attempt to cross. As traffic has declined during COVID-19, then, animals may feel more comfortable venturing onto certain highways, at their peril—leading ultimately to localized roadkill hot spots. And even if it wasn’t more abundant this spring, roadkill might, in some states, simply be more visible, as agencies tasked with cleaning up carcasses divert resources to the coronavirus response.
“COVID is going to have a very short-term effect,” Sandra Jacobson, a retired U.S. Forest Service biologist specializing in transportation, told me. “At some point the world, but especially our country, is going to have to realize that we cannot simply continue to add more and more vehicles indefinitely.”
Shilling is less convinced of the Anthropause’s transience. After all, some of the trends that COVID-19 has spawned—the rise of remote work, for instance—may dampen our enthusiasm for getting behind the wheel. “Coming out of the pandemic, we will hopefully learn lessons,” he said. “One of them might be that we can get a lot of benefits out of not driving.”
Either way, the spring’s gains won’t be immediately undone. In Maine, LeClair told me, more amphibians safely reaching their mating ponds should mean more translucent, gelatinous clumps of successfully laid eggs—and, with luck, more migrants in 2021. “If we’re seeing more next year, we can get an idea that this pandemic might have actually boosted some populations,” he said. The benefits of the great roadkill reprieve, in other words, may outlast the pandemic itself.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.BEN GOLDFARB is an environmental journalist based in Spokane, Washington. He is a 2019 Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow and the author of Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter.
Come November, a month of holiday travel and bad weather, we’ll see busy roads and busier schedules. And according to the annual report on animal collisions by North Carolina’s Department of Transportation, it’s also a very dangerous time to be a deer.
For the years 2016 to 2018, November sees the most animal-related car crashes, with the month alone accounting for 21.9% of the total combined reported animal-related crashes. While the gathered data does not differentiate between the kinds of animals involved in these crashes, data analyses show that approximately 90% of all reported animal-related crashes involve deer.
The annual report contains information such as what months and times of day (or night) the most animal-related crashes occur, and which counties experience the greatest number of them.
Wake County sees the most crashes out of the 100 counties, with 822 in 2017, having a population of 1.072 million in 2017. While this yields one animal-related crash per 1,304 people, population is far from the only factor. Places with fewer roads and drivers see significantly fewer animal-related crashes, a story common in the western part of the state.
As for Watauga, while our 2017 figure was a mere 77 crashes (less than a tenth of Wake County), this is still one crash per 715 people. So while Wake County is far and away the most animal-unfriendly from a raw numbers perspective, Watauga is still a little more deadly per capita. Of course, any number of factors outside population may play into the figure, from how frequently our roads are traveled to nighttime visibility, to road culture. Likewise, more traffic through a particular county may increase the likelihood of animal-related crashes in that area.
Given Watauga’s close relationship to nature, the danger of animal collisions is all the more pronounced. Deer presence on roads is heightened during fall and early winter months, due to the hunting and mating seasons – by no coincidence are the months of October through January the most crash-prone, containing 56.6% of the year’s total animal-related crashes. Furthermore, the evening hours between 5 PM and midnight account for half of these crashes.
Fortunately for Watauga, the injuries suffered from these crashes have been non-fatal, with 7 injuries between 2016 and 2018 (out of a total of 220 incidents).
As November draws near, the Department of Transportation offers helpful tips to motorists that may decrease the risk to both themselves and the animals during their travels:
In heavily wooded areas, and areas with deer crossing signs, slow down, especially during late hours.
Wear a seat belt. Most deer-vehicle related injuries occurred while drivers or passengers were not wearing a seat belt.
Bridges, overpasses, railroad tracks, streams, and ditches see the most deer activity. Be especially vigilant around these areas.
When possible, drive with high beams on, and watch for eyes reflecting in the headlights.
Deer travel in groups. If you see just one, be on the lookout for another.
To scare oncoming deer, slow down and blow your horn in one long blast. Do not rely on deer whistles or reflectors, as these are unproven to be effective.
Maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and others. If a car ahead of you hits a deer, you could also become involved in the crash.
Do not swerve to avoid deer. This could cause a more serious crash with other vehicles, or cause your vehicle to flip.
Lastly, if you do strike a deer, do not touch it. Frightened and wounded deer can injure you or itself further. If possible, pull the car off the road and call 911.
So when traveling for the holidays, be mindful of the heightened deer activity, both for their safety and for yours. The annual report by the North Carolina Department of Transportation can be found here.
The mountain lion, known as P-61 to researchers, was struck and killed on the 405 freeway.
(CNN)A mountain lion known for crossing the Los Angeles 405 freeway was struck and killed by a vehicle early Saturday morning, according to National Park Service (NPS) Ranger Ana Beatriz.
The mountain lion known as P-61 lived in the Santa Monica mountains near the Sepulveda Pass, Beatriz said in a statement. He wore a radio collar around his neck so researchers could track his movements.
The 405 freeway through the Sepulveda pass
The 4-year-old cat’s final GPS point showed him between Bel Air Crest Road and the Sepulveda Boulevard underpass.
City of Los Angeles Animal Control officer retrieved his body, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area said on Facebook.
It appears he was trying to cross the 405 freeway, Beatriz said.
Just months ago, he had successfully crossed that same freeway, the first time a GPS-collared mountain lion had done so over the course of the NPS’s 17-year study of mountain lions in and around the Santa Monica Mountains, Beatriz said.
Canyon Phillips had the rare experience of seeing his first wild wolf up close last weekend, though unfortunately the canine had just expired.
The 3-year-old son of wildlife-watching guide Taylor Phillips probably didn’t grasp what exactly was going on when he crawled up to investigate the still-warm carcass of the grayish-white lobo late on Saturday. Moments before the female adult wolf had been fatally hit by a vehicle cruising down Grand Teton National Park’s main interior road near Colter Bay Village.
The Phillips family rolled by just as Teton Interagency firefighters, who were also driving by, were dragging the animal’s carcass off the road.
“I don’t believe he comprehends death, and what that is,” Phillips said of his son’s roadside encounter.
“He kept on repeating, ‘Why isn’t it real?’” he said. “We were like, ‘No, it is real, but it’s dead — it no longer has any life moving through its veins.’ It’s unfortunate. That was his first wolf, really.”
The wolf was a 7-year-old female from the Huckleberry Pack, which had been tracked and given a unique identification number by the National Park Service in the past. When asked, park officials declined to identify the animal by its number. Although the wolf appears white in photos, it was actually gray and its coat was turning white in its twilight years.
Grand Teton biologist John Stephenson said that the aging lobo’s cause of death — a vehicle strike — is common for wolves within the park’s boundaries. Fourteen wolves have been hit and killed on park roads since 2005, he said.
“We have an average of one a year,” Stephenson said. “In the park, it is the No. 1 cause of mortality for wolves.”
The driver of the motor vehicle that struck the Huckleberry Pack wolf did not report it, although that is a legal requirement. Another motorist who witnessed the hapless animal being hit did phone authorities, but the reporting party did not provide enough detail for law enforcement to pursue. No investigation into the animal’s death is underway, park wildlife chief Dave Gustine said.
Gustine encouraged motorists who strike an animal — or see one hit — to call Teton Interagency Dispatch promptly, and with as many details as possible.
“If people followed the speed limit,” Gustine said, “a lot of these incidents could be avoided.”
The section of highway where the wolf was hit cuts through sagebrush and grass fields and has mostly open sight lines, said Phillips, who is the founder and CEO of Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures. Gustine concurred with that assessment, though noted it’s impossible to say if speed was a factor.
The Huckleberry Pack shows up on Wyoming Game and Fish Department monitoring reports as long ago as 2012, which is the year the female that just died would have been born. Its home range, maps show, extends through most of northern Teton Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, spilling into the Bridger-Teton National Forest’s Teton Wilderness to the east. At last assessment the pack had 10 wolves in its ranks, making it one of the largest wolf packs in Wyoming.
Phillips, whose guides and business benefits from wolf watching, said the Huckleberry Pack hasn’t been a particularly visible wolf pack, at least recently. That’s true of wolves in Jackson Hole generally, he said.
“In the past year, year and a half, wolf observations have been slim,” Phillips said, “and I correlate that to the hunt that opened up.”
At least over the last two years no members of the Huckleberry Pack have been registered by successful legal wolf hunters, according to Game and Fish reports. Wolf harvest has been much more substantial in the southern and eastern parts of the valley.
Parks Canada says ‘unfortunate circumstances’ at play but deaths a reminder to be aware of wildlife
CBC News ·
Three black bears have been hit and killed by vehicles in Banff National Park in the span of a week, in what a wildlife expert describes as a series of “unfortunate circumstances.”
Dan Rafla, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with Parks Canada, says the first death happened on July 29, when a sub-adult black bear was struck and killed on the CP Rail tracks near the Banff townsite.
Then on Aug. 1, a black bear cub was hit by a transit bus on Mountain Avenue in the town.
“That was later in the night, around 11 o’clock in the evening, so it was dark,” Rafla said.
And in the early morning of Aug. 5, a vehicle hit and killed an adult black bear on the Trans-Canada Highway, just west of the Town of Banff.
Rafla said the bear had likely climbed over the wildlife fence meant to keep animals off the highway.
“Black bears are quite adept at climbing, so we assume it climbed over and unfortunately got hit when it was crossing the Trans-Canada,” he said.
‘A lot of animals on the landscape’
Bear-human conflicts tend to be more common around this time of year, Rafla added.
“We have a lot of animals on the landscape and there’s a lot of movement right now. We’re in the berry season and bears are voraciously looking for food to feed on and to put on enough weight for the winter, and they’re maybe not as attentive,” he said.
“It was maybe a bit of unfortunate circumstances to have a flurry of collisions and mortalities all within a week.”
That said, Rafla added the deaths should serve as a reminder to obey speed limits through the national park.
“There’s a reason why it’s 90 km/h and you can have wildlife on the road, despite having a fence there,” he said.
“Slowing down allows for better detection of wildlife and also better reaction time.”