buck-crossing-the-road

Buck Crossing the Road

Standard Time and Wildlife

Before I get into tonight’s topic I want to let my readers know that yesterday I had surgery to repair an inguinal hernia, and today has been pretty miserable.  I am on some narcotics tonight, so forgive me if I ramble incoherently.  I just want to get over this soon, this is the prime time of year for outdoor activity, and here I am stuck in the house.  I really thought I would use the next few days of recovery to do some work on my writing and my website, but I didn’t get a lot done today, I was pretty miserable.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

One thing I did accomplish is setting up my Amazon Affiliate Marketing program, which I am going to try out tonight.  This is a program where I direct readers to Amazon products rather than selling them myself.  I just found that whole product piece of this website to be too distracting from my true mission, so I will give this a try.  Now on to tonight’s topic.

Now that we are back on standard time, we are putting ourselves on the road much more often at times when wildlife are crossing roads at the same time.  Wildlife tends to move in the near-darkness, and combine that with the fact that big game are beginning to migrate to their winter grounds in some areas, and vehicle collisions with deer and elk rise dramatically this time of year.  November is also the peak of the rutting season for deer, so they are much more mobile and less attentive to cars than they normally would be.  In fact November is the month nation-wide with the most vehicle and deer/elk/moose collisions than any other month.  Obviously this is not good for the animals, but it also results in a significant amount of human injuries and fatalities.

deer-collision-graph

Deer Collision Graph in New Hampshire

I heard a funny story a while back about a woman who called in to a radio station talk show to complain about where the county had installed the deer crossing signs. She said “Why in the world would they have the deer crossing in those places, those are the places where they get hit the most?!”  This is actually pretty hilarious, you can see this video by clicking here.  Obviously the deer and elk don’t go to the signs to cross the roads, those signs are put there for a reason; they are the areas where wildlife are most likely to cross the road, so pay attention to those signs.

It is also important to remember that deer and elk generally travel in herds, so if you see one, you are likely to see more.  There are some simple things you can do to prevent collisions:

  • Slow Down – decreasing your speed allows you more reaction time.
  • Stay Alert – pay more attention when driving at dawn or dusk.  Scan the roadway and edges ahead, look for eyes shining in your headlights.
  • Pay attention to traffic signs, such as deer crossing signs.  In some areas speed limits are reduced during darkness, such as Highway 13 between Rifle and Meeker Colorado, this highway has one of the highest number of vehicle and deer/elk collisions in the country, and a road that I travel frequently.

The Colorado Parks & Wildlife has undertaken a project along with the Department of Transportation to take several measures to decrease collisions on Highway 9 between Dillon and Kremmling Colorado, another road I frequent.  In a 10.5 mile stretch of this road there have been over 600 collisions, 16 human fatalities, and 200 hundred injuries in the past 20 years.  The project involves straightening parts of the road to increase visibility, building over-passes for animals to cross the road (the first effort of this kind in Colorado), building tall fences along the road with areas that deer and elk can get away from the road, but discourages them from getting on the road.  There are fences like this all over Colorado, and they seem to make a big difference.  The Highway 9 project is also building under-passes to allow the animals a safe way to get across the road barrier.  It is great to see these organizations working together to increase the safety of humans and the well-being of the animals.

deer-in-the-headlights

A Deer in the Headlights

With all of these efforts underway, and by being cautious, hopefully you will not experience a collision with a large animal, or any size animal for that matter.  But if you come across an animal in your headlights it is important that you don’t swerve to try to miss the animal.  I know that is counter-intuitive to human behavior, but it is the swerving to miss an animal which results in more human deaths than the collisions themselves. This is especially true with smaller animals, and it is a very difficult urge to overcome.  But think about going 60 miles an hour and you suddenly swerve to miss a skunk.  You are likely going to lose control of your vehicle and crash.  While all wildlife is valuable, a skunk is not as important as the people in your vehicle.

The conservationist in me has to tell you this next part, which may seem gruesome to some.  If you do kill an animal, and no serious human injury is involved, you should salvage what you can from that animal.  It is not uncommon in Colorado to see people cleaning a dead elk on the side of the road that they have killed with their vehicle.  You do have to notify the Colorado Parks & Wildlife and purchase a salvage tag for $10, but you will still get a lot of good meat from a freshly road-killed elk or deer.  And this is why hunting is needed to manage our game herds; I would much rather harvest an elk with my bow than with my truck.

So this is where I am going to interject my product suggestion.  If you do happen to hit an animal with your car or truck, it is imperative that you have what you need to take care of that animal, assuming it is dead.  My favorite knife for processing big game for the past twenty years is a fixed blade Buck knife with a 6″ clip point blade.  This knife, along with its leather sheath, has been my primary hunting knife for a very long time because it is durable, versatile, and easy to handle in the field, whether that be by the side of your truck or ten miles into the wilderness.  The blade is 420HC Stainless Steel, and it is very easy to put a new edge on it whether you are in the field or at home.  This is a great camp knife as well, its uses go far beyond cleaning big game.  This is a product that I can honestly say that I have used for many years, and it is a great product.   [easyazon-block align=”right” asin=”B000EHWWJQ” locale=”us”]