Countryside Roadkill: What can be done to save the lives of many valued animals?
What is your first impulse when you find roadkill on a country road? There is a bit of excitement chorused with empathy. Your heart and mind does not sing, not that kind of chorus. If the road is clear, you want to get off, take your camera and get a few shots. You feel remorseful of the dead carcass. The annual roadkill is mercilessly countless in North American and North European roadways. Man, you have to drive more with caution and play an important role protecting wildlife!
Can roadkill be prevented?
Sure do. Roadkills can be prevented by daily commuters, travellers and/or vacationers. The road signs do its part of warning vehicles from a distance, but really, animals still get killed even after passing the “animal crossing” signs. Here are some helpful tips a driver could be cautious about in preventing roadkill and saving the valuable life of animals:
Slow Down Speed. Be alert and adjust speed to a 90 kph or 55 mph when you are driving through a wildlife territory. This will give you time to avoid an animal with a decent stop. Make a stop or pull over to the side of the road with hazard lights flashing. Let the animal(s) cross. In finding or meeting a moose or a cow and its calf, stay inside your car; keep your passengers in the car as well. Don’t approach the animal. If a large animal like the moose feels threatened, it will charge. At nights, driving slow will save you and the animals that will surprise you in the absence of road light posts.
Watch for Warning Signs. Drivers will likely meet larger animals such as the moose, deer or bear around forested areas. No one would wish to collide with these animals because it could both be fatal to the animal and passengers. These animals move from one habitat to the other. Hunting season also affects the animals’ behaviour and would surely want to stay away from those areas where hunters could track them. Springtime is the season when animals would have their young along, so if you encounter one, be wary that there could be just more than one.
Flash It. You want to turn down blinding headlights, but remember that flashing high beams once in a while could most times save an animal’s life due to a quick disruption of its move by the bright effect from your head lights. The downside of the light’s hypnotic effect on nocturnal animals is that it freezes the animals from fleeing. At the same time, nighttime animals see better in low/dim lights and notices the car better than an extreme bright light towards them, thus giving these nocturnal animals a time to keep away. Observantly watch for large shadows moving that could be a moose or deer.
Examples of nocturnal species are: The rodents (squirrels/flying squirrels, rats, beaver, porcupines), rabbits, hedgehog, foxes, possums, raccoons, coyotes, skunks, badgers, cats, white tailed deer to name a few.
Honk It. When passing side road forests, marshes, other wetlands, or even plain views, always look from your right and left for animals. Honk for animals making its way on the roadway and chances are you will be able to slow down or have time to stop and let the animal cross safely to the other side. Honking your horn is a striking and effective way for deer to get warned that a car is coming. For turtles, don’t just sit in your car, turtles don’t give a damn about your honking. Get off and help the turtle cross the road before sundown. I was in deep sadness when I saw a painted turtle (oranged-necked) crossing a city road and there was no way to make a side stop or park the car from a consistent two-way traffic. The road was narrow too and the car just have to keep going. Crossed my fingers that day that the turtle will be able to reach the other side safely.
Be Vigilant. Animals especially moose and deer change locations moving around the hours of sunset to midnight and again at sunrise, or from dawn to dusk. Animals are known to move from one place to another and there is not enough light for drivers to see them well. The moose and deer are active during mating season between October and December, so they could be anywhere adjusting to habitats. Expect the same when you reach a town or a city where deer mostly are wandering the outskirts not for being lost, but in search for nourishment. If you notice fire from a distance especially field or forest fire, be extra careful and watchful for animals. Animals will stay far from fire and move to safer areas. They will be running or could dart in front of your car from nowhere.
A Phone Call Away. If you are someone who travels frequently far distances and back, it is wise to keep an emergency number for animal rescue in your area. This could include the wildlife rehabilitators, rangers, veterinarians, animal shelters and animal control in your area. Never touch a hurt or distressed animal, for it could force to defend itself from fear and pain all together. Call for emergency help while your car hazard lights are flashing. If the animal has been left dead on the road, you may either call for help to have the animal removed or move it to the side of the road to give respect and protection to the already dead animal.
More helpful tips driving in the country where wildlife on the road is not rare:
- Check headlights and must be properly adjusted. Windshield must be clear and clean.
- Don’t fall asleep behind the wheels. Do not drive if you are too tired to drive or had consumed alcohol to avoid any collision with animals day or night. Collisions with large animals with antlers are most dangerous because these antlers are tough and could break through a windshield. Many unfortunate collisions had a large animal (mostly moose) crashing through a windshield, killing passengers.
- Drive carefully every time travelling on a safe speed. If you believe that there are moose and/or deer in nearby areas, be extra cautious. Moose or deer could escape out from fences too.
- Be alert for large shadows moving before your beams and glowing eyes, then be prepared to stop. The eyes of a deer would make a reflection of your headlights and if you are closer to a moose crossing the road, it is unlikely that you will see your lights reflecting on the moose’s eyes. Since they are bigger, taller in size and darker in shade than any other hoofed animal, it is not easy to spot them in the dark.
- Deer whistles (a small ultrasonic device) mounted on the bumper of a car that brings out a shrill tone audible to deer which frightens them away and can be effective, but don’t be too dependent on these whistles. Still it is much better to be extra cautious with your surroundings and the wildlife environment of the countryside.
- Keep passengers and yourself safe in the car at all times when you spot a moose very close on the side of the road. It is safer to view the moose inside the car especially when you have children with you.
- Don't drive around a moving animal if you spot one or more on the road. Stop the car and wait. You will not be able to tell the animal's unpredictable movements.
- The moose is an aggressive wild animal and is immensely dangerous to humans especially when a surprising charge that would take just a few seconds happens from a protective moose cow with a calf. All these can be avoided. If it walks away, slowly drive past the moose without changing speed and honking. If the moose is far away in the marshes, sure, you can park your car safely on a safe spot to take pictures. You definitely won’t be alone to do this capturing of a moment, other cars would stop too, just be careful in crossing the road.
- If you hit a moose or a deer, don't make any brave attempt to move the injured animal. Call for emergency help right away such as the local area police or the animal rescue numbers you have ready with you. When travelling or visiting a provincial park, make sure to grab their Park Guide paper, it should have a listing of emergency numbers.
- Inspect your car making sure it is still safe to drive. Have a safe trip.
List of Some Animals you likely will encounter on roads and highways:
- Mountain Goats
Have you ever had a close encounter with wildlife and would be glad to share your experience on this hub's comment box? Thank you for sharing.
Please visit my poem tribute to porcupines dying on the roads at http://coffeegginmyrice.hubpages.com/hub/Poor-Porcupine-Lost-Its-Shine-A-tribute-poem-to-wildlife