Preventing and Handling Wildlife Collisions

In our last post, we discussed how motor vehicle accidents involving wildlife are both dangerous and extremely common here in Ontario. In today’s post, we share some helpful info on what to do if you hit an animal on the road, and how to prevent this type of accident.

My vehicle collided with a large wild animal – what should I do?

  • As with any accident, determine whether anyone in the car is hurt, and call 911 if there are any injuries.
  • Pull onto the shoulder and turn on your hazard lights. If you can, shine your headlights onto the animal. If your car is badly damaged, call a tow truck.
  • Try to determine whether the animal is wounded or dead. Be cautious: a hurt animal can be unpredictable and dangerous, so do not approach or touch the animal unless you are sure it’s dead. If it is dead, and you can safely do so, you can pull the body off the road.
  • Even if you do not require police assistance, make a report that lets officials know the exact location of the collision. They will dispatch a crew to remove the carcass, and keep track of the data to see whether the area is becoming a high-risk one for collisions.

What can I do to avoid wildlife collisions?

  • Watch for and heed yellow diamond-shaped wildlife warning signs. They are there for good reason.
  • Know animals’ peak active times. Dusk, dawn, and nighttime are the most likely times that animals will be near roadway. Use your high beams where there is no oncoming traffic.
  • Recognize the environmental factors that lead to poor visibility, particularly low light and thick brush near the road. Get in the habit of scanning shoulder-to-shoulder, not just looking straight ahead.
  • Stay alert and don’t speed. As we’ve previously discussed, speed-related accidents go up as road conditions improve with warmer weather, mostly due to driver overconfidence and inattention. It’s easy to lose your focus on long, boring stretches of highway, but letting your guard down can mean you don’t notice an approaching animal.
  • Despite what your instinct may be, swerving is not always the best way to avoid hitting an animal, especially deer (who are the most common animal hit, and almost always travel in groups). Swerving makes you more prone to losing control and risk entering oncoming traffic.  Brake hard and sound your horn in rapid bursts to try to scare the animal away.
  • Understanding the way that animals think and behave can be a powerful tool – here are some excellent FAQs about deer behaviour.

More in-depth tips for defensive driving to avoid animal accidents can be found on the Wildlife Collision Prevention Program website.

Sources: WCPP, CBC, Workplace Safety North, CTV