Editorial: Wildlife defensive driving tips
The days are visibly shorter, putting more people on the road during the evening rush hour. Just when deer are very active. Just when the likelihood of a deer-car incident is greater than other times of day.
No one wants to strike an animal; not only does it injure — or more likely kill — the animal, but it may also damage the car and hurt the driver and any passengers inside the vehicle.
Some defensive driving tips from Wildlife in Crisis in Weston can help avoid a possibly deadly casualty.
What to watch out for:
When driving on a road that bisects the bottom of a hill and a water source, beware of animal crossings to and from their drinking and feeding ground.
If the road is lined with trees, stone walls, hedges or grass, expect birds, small mammals and deer, who prefer such edge habitat even if it’s right beside a busy road.
During early fall, watch out for frogs and toads who tend to cross paved roads en masse during and after rain especially at night.
If you see an animal on the side of the road, slow down and beep your horn. Many animals become accustomed to the drone of traffic noise.
When driving at night choose to drive on lit roads whenever possible. If you must drive on unlit roads use your high beams. Use halogen headlamps.
Fog lights are helpful in illuminating the road’s periphery. From the reference of a small mammal that sees a car at a distance it looks as though they can cross the road beneath the oncoming car.
Scan both sides of the road, scan edges of roads, scan especially on the right side of the road, both the driver and the animal will have less reaction time. Don’t drive on the immediate right shoulder of the road as this is where most road kills occur.
Both nocturnal and diurnal animals are most active at dawn and dusk. After heavy rain watch out for frogs who will cross en masse. Also, watch for both mammals and birds attracted to the dead frogs and worms on the road.
Opossums, coyotes, raccoons and crows and other scavengers will be attracted to road kills. Move dead animals to the side of the road with a stick or shovel only if you can do so safely.
Opossums will freeze and bare their teeth at oncoming cars. This is their natural defense mechanism. When they realize you are not going to “attack” they will usually move on. A toot of the horn will send them on their way in a hurry.
More than half of all accidents involving deer occur from September through November, since bucks are in rut, the females are excited, and the frequent presence of hunters has them further on edge. Five times as many adult males are killed during their rutting season (October and November) than other months.
When one deer crosses the road it is likely more will follow. Does typically travel with one or two fawns, who may dart out after their mother even though it is no longer safe to do so. Deer tend to freeze when caught in the glare of headlights. They will also follow the headlights if a car skids while trying to avoid the deer.