How to avoid vehicle/deer collisions on Utah roads and highways

Deer carcasses can be found along many of the roads and highways this time of year.

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s deer season on roads and highways in and around Cache Valley. November is one of the more deadly times of the year for deer, with the time change more people are driving in the dark.

Deer Run across the road leading to the Left Hand Fork of Blacksmith Fork Canyon in a file photo.

The peak time to hit deer in Utah is around November,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Migration Initiative Coordinator Daniel Olson said. “It coincides with mating season and the migration.”

Utahns will gain an extra hour of sleep on Nov. 7 as daylight saving time ends, but the time change also means commuters will be traveling during lower-visibility hours, which can increase the possibility of vehicle/wildlife collisions.

“Animals are crossing more roads during the migration, and male deer move around a lot more to find mates,” he said. “Plus, it doesn’t help that the daylight hours are shorter, creating lower visibility for drivers.”

One reason more deer are killed on the highways in the fall and winter of the year is because the migration patterns of big game. Deer and elk move to lower ground to find food. Wildlife migration to lower ground brings less snow and more abundant feed.”

The migration period for deer usually begins in April and May, and once more in October and November, which is also when the highest number of vehicle and deer collisions occur in Utah.

Some years there are up to 10,000 deer-vehicle collisions, according to a recent DWR study.

DWR is doing what they can to reduce those numbers by building wildlife bridges, tunnels and fences to keep big game and other animals away from roads and highways.

The installation of those migration guides have already had an effect on the number of big game killed in recent years. It was all part of the Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative.

The Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative was founded in 2017 to better track and study the migration patterns of different wildlife and fish species in the state. Most of the data comes from animals wearing GPS tracking devices or from fish tagged with implanted transmitters.

Elk are one of the many species that can be found on the roads and highways in Utah.

The data is also used to locate migration routes and ensure that wildlife crossings are constructed strategically (i.e., where those routes cross highways or rivers).

So far in 2021, there have been over 3,500 deer/vehicle collisions reported. Deer are more active early in the morning and in the evenings, which coincides with busy commuting hours. This is also when low-light conditions make it difficult for drivers to see.

How to avoid wildlife collisions

Here are some tips from Wild Aware Utah to help motorists avoid wildlife collisions:

  • Be especially alert at dawn and dusk.
  • Heed wildlife crossing signs. These signs are usually placed in areas known to have a high volume of wildlife/vehicle collisions.
  • Be alert on roadways near wooded, agricultural and wetland areas and also near lakes and streams.
  • Scan both sides of the road as you drive. Invite passengers to help watch for wildlife.
  • Do not drive distracted. Put away food, phones and other distractions.
  • When possible, use high-beam headlights to better illuminate the road.
  • Look for an animal’s eyeshine, which can be seen from a distance. Slow down once you have spotted an animal near the roadside.
  • Some animals travel in groups, so be sure to watch for additional animals if you see one.
  • Do not throw trash out of your vehicle. Not only are there penalties for littering on a highway, but trash and food scraps can also draw animals to roadways.

What to do if you see an animal on or near the road

  • Do not swerve for a deer or small animals. Stay in your lane and slow down.
  • If several animals are standing in the road, do not try to drive through them or get out of the vehicle to chase or herd them. Honk your horn and flash your lights to encourage them to move on.
  • If an animal has crossed the road, continue to drive slowly and be cautious because it may try to cross again
  • Pull off the road if you hit an animal and use your hazard lights if your car is undriveable.
  • Do not try to approach an injured animal.
  • Call 911 or contact your local police department if you were injured or if the animal is in the roadway and could pose a threat to public safety.

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1 Comment

  • Carol Foht October 27, 2021 at 8:19 pm Reply

    I appreciate this article. Since we live in such a well populated wildlife area, every bit of “help” we can get to stay safe helps. Thank you.

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