As Michiganders are waking up from winter slumber and traveling more, so, too, are lots of species of wildlife. For many, this is also baby season and the time when vehicles accidentally injure and orphan millions, the evidence of which is sadly popping up all over.
“We live in a community that loves nature and appreciates animals,” says Tanya Hilgendorf, HSHV’s CEO and president. “Whether we are talking about our companion animals or backyard wildlife, animals are a part of who we are, and few want senseless death. The $622,000 of taxpayer money spent on culling hasn’t solved deer/vehicle conditions—worse, it may give people a false sense of security. To keep both people and animals safe, we share tips that have been proven effective in other communities in implementing better road safety measures and avoiding collisions with wildlife.”
Safe Spring Driving Tips
Look for the signs. Studies show deer and wildlife crossing signs reduce vehicle collisions when they’re strategically placed (e.g., near water or food sources for deer). If you know of a crossing area without a sign, tell your local road commission.
Give them a brake and make some room. One of best way to avoid any collision (with pedestrians, bikers, other vehicles and animals) is to slow down. Be patient. Don’t tailgate; keep distance between you and vehicles ahead to give them some stopping time. As a highway expert said, “Don’t be afraid to be a slow poke in the right lane,” or on multi-lane roads consider keeping to the center lane to give wildlife maximum distance. The World Resources Institute reports that for every 1 mph decrease in speed in urban areas, traffic fatalities decrease 6%, important in a city like Ann Arbor with high pedestrian death rates.
Stay alert. Put cell phones away and avoid other driving distractions.
Expect animals in unexpected places. Construction and other outdoor activity put wildlife on the move, so be on the lookout. Animals will often cross roads to get to water, so if there’s a river or lake nearby, be extra alert. Also, be aware that many birds, small mammals, turtles and deer prefer “edge habitat” (where natural habitats meet human ones—e.g., a line of trees with hedges or grass), even if it’s near the road.
Remember dusk and dawn. Those are the two times animals are most active…and when human drivers are often sleepy!
See one? Watch for more. Many animals, including deer, travel in families. If you see one animal, chances are, there are more nearby. Be sure to stop and wait for others to cross; even if you don’t immediately see them, wait and see!
Honk your horn. See an animal on the side of the road? Slow down and beep your horn in short bursts. Urban wildlife have become accustomed to traffic noise, and many may not have good vision, but they can distinguish your vehicle’s horn.
Flash your brights, and look for glowing eyes. If you can travel on lit roads, do—otherwise, use your high beams when appropriate, scan the road for glowing eyes, and flash your lights on and off when you see an animal on or near the side of the road. Not only will this caution others to slow down, but also flashing lights are more likely to be seen by animals like deer (who cannot focus—and freeze when there’s a bright steady light).
When it rains, it ribbits. Lookout for turtles and froggy friends; large groups of frogs and toads often cross roads during and just after rain, especially in the evening. See a turtle? If you can safely escort it to the side of the road, do. Just be sure to keep it moving in the same direction it’s going; otherwise, the turtle will turn back!
Keep HSHV’s phone number handy. Call the Humane Society of Huron Valley’s Wildlife emergency rescue line for help with any injured wildlife in Washtenaw County: 734-661-3512. If you hit an adult wild animal this spring, please check for babies in the area. Steer clear of injured adult animals and call HSHV.