Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) remind motorists during “Watch Out for Wildlife (WOW) Awareness Week” (Sept. 16-22) to remain alert while driving to improve safety for travelers and wildlife alike.
“It’s important that motorists, when driving through areas frequented by deer, elk and other animals, do all they can to protect themselves as well as some of California’s greatest natural resources – our wildlife,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.
In California alone, the California Highway Patrol reported more than 1,800 wildlife-vehicle collisions in 2010. Approximately $1 billion in property damage is also caused by these incidents. The Defenders of Wildlife, a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting native animals and plants, reports more than 200 people are killed in collisions with deer, elk and other wildlife each year with an estimated 1.5 million animals hit annually.
The WOW Awareness Week campaign is supported by Caltrans, DFG, the Defenders of Wildlife, and the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). Caltrans and its partners work together to plan for the conservation of natural resources while providing safe and effective transportation.
“It’s a sad fact that, despite the collaborative effort of many organizations, we still lose quite a few animals on our roads every year,” said Craig Stowers, DFG's Deer Program Coordinator. “Many of these incidents could be avoided by simply altering our driving behavior, and being aware of when animals will be most active and being prepared in the event one is encountered. Programs such as Caltrans’ WOW are important reminders that hopefully will decrease that loss and better protect California’s motorists from these unfortunate incidents.”
Caltrans, DFG and the Defenders of Wildlife offer a few tips for motorists:
• Be alert when driving.
• If you see an animal cross the road, know that another may be following.
• Don’t litter. It could entice animals to venture onto the road.
Examples of what Caltrans, in cooperation with our partners, is doing to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions:
Interstate 280, San Mateo County
Funded by Caltrans and executed by the UC Davis Road Ecology Center and DFG, an ongoing 24-month study focuses on tracking deer and other wildlife that live and move along a busy 13-mile stretch of freeway between Millbrae and Woodside. The study is also looking at the use of existing underpasses by wildlife, and information collected during the study will allow researchers to make recommendations that could include installing fences or wildlife underpasses to prevent deer from entering the roadway and reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.
U.S. Route 50, El Dorado County
A wildlife crossing on U.S. Route 50 east of Shingle Springs near El Dorado Road was constructed in May 2012 to direct animals into an underpass in order to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.
State Route 23, Ventura County
Caltrans funded a study that monitored wildlife movement and road kill rates within a 7-year period (2004-2011) along State Route 23 in Ventura County. This study was conducted in partnership with the National Park Service in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area by monitoring existing animal underpasses and found Caltrans’ mitigation efforts effective through increased rates of culvert use by medium-sized mammals, resulting in reduced road kill.
For more information on Watch Out for Wildlife, along with additional tips on avoiding collisions with wild animals, go to www.defenders.org.