As we travel down the road, we are bombarded with distractions. We typically don’t read every sign we pass. However, one important message we shouldn’t ignore are animal crossings. Here in the Northeast, we don’t have to travel too far out of our cities and towns to come across vast backwoods, where many species reside. We have to remember that our paved highways bi-sect wilderness highways.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “there are about 1 million car accidents with deer each year that kill 200 Americans, cause more than 10,000 personal injuries and result in $1 billion in vehicle damage.” By comparison, sharks have killed 10 people in the USA in the past 10 years, according to the International Shark Attack File. These are striking statistics given that fear of animals doesn’t typically involve deer.
Today, approximately 80 percent of New England is covered by forest or thick woods. That is a far cry from the mere 30 to 40 percent that remained forested in most parts of the region in the mid-1800s, after early waves of settlers finished with their vast logging, farming and leveling operations. As part of this “forest comeback”, bears, wild turkey, deer and many other animals have grown in numbers.
Other than deer, bear and small game, one much larger animal lives in more rural areas of the Northeast. Moose! Moose weigh over 1,000 pounds and are very hard to spot. Their fur is dark, and given their height, their eyes do not reflect when headlights are shined on them. Moreover, moose hang out near roadways in the winter. They make their way to the roadways to lick the winter salt that has been applied to reduce ice buildup. In New Hampshire alone, there are roughly 250 moose-related accidents in the Granite State each year, many resulting in injuries or death to drivers and passengers. New Hampshire Fish and Game wildlife officials and law enforcement officers urge drivers to use caution when on the roads, especially at dusk and dawn, for motorists’ safety and that of moose.
So what are some ways we can help prevent a collision?
- Scan the roadway
- Slow down in animal prone areas
- Use extra caution during dawn and dusk
- Use high beams (when not a hindrance to on-coming traffic)
- Always buckle up
Other than injuries that can result from a collision, vehicles are often damaged heavily. “In the USA, the average collision with a deer produces more than $3,000 damage,” Rob Found, a biologist from the University of Alberta said. Remember this is an average; many wrecks are minor and result in little to no damage, not to mention the wrecks that far exceed the $3,000 number.
No matter what animal we are trying to avoid, if we are alert and slow down, we can help reduce the number of collisions and preserve life. While traveling throughout our region, we need to appreciate the woods and the animals that surround us.
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