Officials from the Oregon Department of Transportation are asking drivers to be aware on rural roads during the upcoming fall season with more wildlife expected to cross roadways in the coming months.
ODOT said in a press release it has documented 12,540 animal-vehicle collisions between 2007 and 2017, including deer and elk. The actual number of collisions is higher, ODOT said, adding that many are not reported if there is minimal damage or no human injuries.
Collisions with deer and elk tend to peak in October and November, when migration and breeding put the animals them on the move and makes them more likely to cross roads.
The ODFW said drivers should be aware of the following:
- Breeding season or deer typically lasts from late October to late November, increasing deer activity and the potential for deer to cross roads.
- Fewer daylight hours and winter driving conditions will create more challenges to drivers. Motorists should be attentive at all times, especially from sunset to sunrise for any potential hazard on or near the highway.
- Areas along roadways or highways with dense vegetation provide cover for animals, meaning drivers should take more caution that environment.
- If you see one animal, stay alert for others nearby. Also, use extra caution in an area with road signs indicating the presence of wildlife.
- When wildlife are near or on the roadway, reduce your speed and stay in your lane. Many serious crashes are the result of drivers losing control as they swerve to avoid wildlife.
- The same applies for smaller wildlife like raccoons or possums. Try to stay in your lane and do not swerve for these animals. They are less dangerous to vehicles than big game animals; losing control of the vehicle is a larger concern.
- Always wear your seat belt, as even the slightest collision could result in serious injuries.
More rural parts of Old Highway 99 can be hotbeds for wildlife activity, with many collisions happening on the stretch between Green and Roseburg’s southgate entrance. Other spots prone to collisions, like Old Highway 99, are along Highway 138 east of Whistler’s Bend Park. Many animals cross roads in these areas in an effort to reach water.
Dedicated funds are critical for implementing projects to support safe wildlife migration. The non-profit Oregon Wildlife Foundation (OWF) is currently selling vouchers for a Watch for Wildlife license plate featuring a mule deer and Cascade Range mountain in the background.
The organization has a long history of providing grants for projects that benefit fish and wildlife in Oregon, including helping rid Diamond Lake of tui chub to restore the trout fishery.
Once 3,000 vouchers are sold, the DMV will put the plate into production. OWF will award the annual monies raised from license plate sales to projects that help wildlife move safely within their range and between habitat patches.