This time of year, the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions typically peak as animals start migrating to winter habitat, mating season begins for deer and elk, and bears spend more time foraging before hibernation. To help reduce collisions, Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) remind motorists to be on the lookout during Watch Out for Wildlife Week, which runs from Sept. 15 through Sept. 21.
Watch Out for Wildlife Week marks the beginning of the migration season for California’s wildlife, particularly elk and deer. Many of California’s roadways cut through these animals’ routes. It is vital that drivers be especially alert now through December to avoid collisions with wild animals. These crashes not only harm wildlife, but they can damage vehicles and cause injury and death to drivers and passengers.
“Caltrans is dedicated to improving the safety of California drivers, which includes being responsible when it comes to the environment,” said Caltrans Acting Director Bob Franzoia. “This can mean installing flashing warning signs and building ramps and larger culverts for safer passage over and under our roads.”
“From September through December, wildlife often exhibit natural behaviors that can increase their movements and activity nearer to humans and roadways,” said CDFW Conflict Programs Coordinator Vicky Monroe. “That makes large animals such as deer, bears and mountain lions more likely to be killed or injured by wildlife-vehicle collisions.”
According to the California Highway Patrol, 15 people died, and 810 people were injured in 4,368 collisions with animals on state, county and local roadways throughout California between 2017 and 2018. The UC Davis Road Ecology Center estimates the total annual cost of animal-vehicle conflicts in California to be at least $307 million in 2018.
Wildlife experts offer the following tips for motorists:
• Be extra alert when driving near areas wildlife frequent, such as streams and rivers, and reduce your speed especially around curves.
• Don’t text and drive. Leave your phone alone; it can wait.
• Pay extra attention driving during the morning and evening hours when wildlife are often most active.
• If you see an animal on or near the road, know that others may be following.
• Don’t litter. Trash and food odors can attract animals to roadways.
• Pay attention to road shoulders. Look for movement or reflecting eyes. Slow down and honk your horn if you see an animal on or near the road.
• Respect wildlife. California is their home too.
In partnership with the Western Transportation Institute, Caltrans recently completed a hotspot analysis that identifies the stretches of California highways with the highest frequencies of deer-vehicle collisions. This project will help determine where potential improvements may be needed to improve roadway safety. The report is available for download through the Western Transportation Institute’s (WTI) webpage.
Caltrans is also funding research being completed by the U.S. Geological Survey and WTI to develop ways to help threatened and endangered amphibians and reptiles move around. Researchers are also developing crossing designs for amphibian and reptiles, including a low-lying bridge concept being tested on a dirt road in the Sierra National Forest. If adopted for use on California’s state highways, such a bridge would provide more space than traditional small diameter culverts for small-bodied amphibians and reptiles to move beneath roadways. Additionally, Caltrans is participating in a Pooled Fund Study with several other state departments of transportation to investigate cost-effective measures for reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions.
The Watch Out for Wildlife campaign is supported by Caltrans, CDFW, Defenders of Wildlife and the UC Davis Road Ecology Center.