Deer risks peaking as grasses green up
The combination of deer family groups moving together and grasses starting to green up along roadways makes early spring a particularly risky time for motorists when it comes to animal collisions, says Sundre-Olds Fish and Wildlife officer Adam Mirus.
“The places that green up first are where the sun is hitting the open ditches and fields beside the roads, so that’s where the deer will be gathering and moving across the roads,” said Mirus. “Where there is a lot of bush along the road there is potential for deer to be crossing there too.
“Especially at this time of year you will see family units travelling together.”
Although deer population numbers in West Central Alberta are believed to be down this year compared with 2011, there are still many animals active across the region, he said.
Deer are most commonly on the move early in the morning around sunrise and in the late evening, making those particularly high-risk times for motorists.
Scanning the ditches ahead is one of the best ways of mitigating those animal collision risks, he said.
“Use caution and obey the speed limits, and if you can, even slow down some more at those times of day,” he said.
The Alberta Motor Association says there are a number of driving tips motorists can follow to avoid animal collisions, including reducing speed and increasing vigilance in peak collision areas, extending your visual lead time by keeping your eyes focused on the top two-thirds of your windshield, and scanning the tree line for horizontal shadows that intercept the vertical tree line at dusk and dawn.
The AMA has also issued a number of recommendations for drivers who find themselves on a collision course with a deer or other large animal:
• Aim for the spot the animal is coming from, not where it is going.
• Look where you want to go, not at the animal. Your car tends to go in the direction that you are looking. If you are looking at the animal that is the direction that the vehicle tends to go.
• If you must hit something, especially in the case of a large animal, try for a glancing or angular blow rather than a head-on collision. Brake firmly and quickly to lessen the impact, then look and steer your vehicle to strike the animal at an angle.
• Duck as low as you can in case the animal lands on your vehicle.
Not only deer but moose and elk are also actively moving around the district at this time of year, creating collision hazards that should be kept in mind, said Mirus.
Meanwhile, hikers should be on the lookout for deer and particularly newborn fawns during early spring weeks, he said.
“This is the time of year, over the next couple of weeks, when we are going to be seeing fawns on the ground,” he said. “It is very important that if they do find a fawn that they leave it where it is. The fawn already knows that if the mother leaves, it is to sit still and the doe will come back to it after the danger has left.
“We get a pile of people picking up ‘Bambi’ and bring them into the office. If they are doing that they are putting their scent on it and there is a good chance that the doe won’t take it back. It’s always best to leave it where it’s found.”