Wildlife Collisions on Ontario Highways

From moose to bears to elk and other large species, our majestic wildlife is part of what makes Ontario’s natural environments such special places. But when wildlife and vehicles are sharing the same space, tragedy can easily occur for both humans and animals.  According to the BC-based Wildlife Collision Prevention Program, there are 4 to 8 large animal-vehicle collisions every hour in Canada. And every year here in Ontario, hundreds of people are seriously injured in accidents involving large animals. Tragically, some lose their lives.

Countless Collisions

The OPP annually investigates an astonishing 10,000+ collisions involving wildlife, and these are just the collisions that are reported. In one 5-month study done on a 31-km stretch in Eastern Ontario, more than 24,000 vehicle-vertebrate collisions were documented: this takes into account smaller mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Clearly, cars and animals are a deadly combination.

When drivers or passengers are involved in a  wildlife collision, their injuries can have devastating impact both physically and emotionally. Other costs to Canadians include “hundreds of millions a year in vehicle damage and medical costs, as well as traffic delays, emergency services use and increases in insurance premiums”.

For all these reasons, minimizing these collisions must be a priority in making Ontario’s roadways safer.

Creating Safer Shared Spaces

Over the years, the province has attempted various strategies to reduce the number of these wildlife-vehicle collisions. Most involve infrastructure such as animal under- and overpasses, gates and fencing. Fortunately, monitoring has shown that over time, more and more animals are using these protective systems.

Yet, in British Columbia, attempts at reducing animal-vehicle collisions have had much greater success. A recent study from researchers at the University of Waterloo shows that there is much to be learned from BC. According to professor Michael Drescher, the Rocky Mountain region is “renowned as a leader in the management of wildlife-road conflicts” and says Ontario is missing an opportunity to implement proven measures to make its highways safer.

Some of these strategies include better signage, wildlife detection systems, fencing and wildlife crossings. The study suggests that incorporating these solutions into regular road maintenance work would cost relatively little but result in huge benefits to society.

In our next post, we will share some tips on preventing collisions with wildlife, and what you should do if you are involved in a wildlife collision.