Without warning, at almost any time of day or night, motorists can encounter the sudden movement of wildlife crossing the road. Vehicle collisions with wildlife happen year round, but statistics indicate that the migration of animals to their wintering habitats can lead to higher incidents of animal-vehicle collisions (AVC) during the fall and winter seasons. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and partnering agencies, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and Colorado State Patrol (CSP), remind motorists to be alert because, “Wildlife are on the Move!”
“As days shorten, temperatures drop and snow begins to fall, many wildlife species move from their high elevation summer ranges in the mountains and plateaus and travel to lower elevation winter ranges in the foothills and valleys,” said Mark Lawler, CDOT biologist. “The essential habitats for these animals are intersected by Colorado’s highways, forcing wildlife to cross roadways in search of food, water, space and shelter.”
Over the past four years the state has seen a rise in the number of reported wildlife related collisions. State agencies track reported collisions with wildlife. The statistics count all types of animals including small and large mammals ― from raccoon and skunk to moose and elk. However, the most significant number of AVCs occur with deer. Last year in 2016, agencies reported more than 4,600 deer killed on Colorado highways.
Motorists should be aware that a majority of AVCs occur from dusk to dawn, when wildlife are more active and, unfortunately, are more difficult to see.
CSP Captain Adrian Driscol offered this advice if a wildlife collision does occur, “Drivers should brake, look, and steer. Brake, slow down and concentrate on keeping control of your vehicle. Look around and be aware of your surroundings, especially other vehicles in front or behind you. Then steer and move your vehicle to a safe position off the road.”
The best practice for drivers is to be aware, drive with caution and slow down, especially at night. While almost every road in both rural and urban areas will have wildlife attempting to cross the roadway, road kill statistics have pinpointed some highways that are more frequently used as corridors for wildlife on the move.
Driscol added, “If you see one deer or elk, more than likely you can expect others crossing the highway too.”
The deer specific AVCs for Region 1 (Denver Metro Area) in 2016 totaled 301. The highway corridors with significant numbers of AVC include:
- US 285, MP 230-250, Conifer to the CO 470 Interchange: 86 AVC (deer)
- I-70, 250-270, Genesee Park to Denver: 38 AVC (deer)
- I-25, MP 180-190, Castle Rock to 2 miles north of Castle Pines: 7 AVC (deer)
- I-25, MP 161-180, 18-mile segment between south Castle Rock and Monument. This area, known as The Gap, is particularly susceptible to AVCs due to the rural nature of the area and Greenland Open Space, south of Larkspur.
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