CHEYENNE - As the weather changes, many big game animals leave their summer and fall ranges for traditional wintering areas.
Some animals move significant distances while others move only a few miles. Regardless of the distance, migration routes often lead animals into conflict with motorists as they cross highways on the way to their wintering areas. In addition, big game animals are often drawn to areas along roadways to seek the better forage that results from road runoff moisture and lack of use from other animals. Late November into December is also the deer breeding season, or rut, when bucks are often chasing does.
Areas where road construction has taken place are also attractive to wildlife. Animals congregate in areas where groundcover has recently been seeded. The combination of straw, which is often used to help seed germination, and new sprouts is attractive to big game animals.
Wildlife may be next to roads at any time during the year, and motorists are urged to be on the lookout at all times. But winter is most hazardous for both wildlife and motorists. Animals may be on the move at any time of day, but it is nighttime when animals are most active. Not coincidentally, many collisions occur after dark. With daylight savings time no longer in effect, people are often driving home at dusk when visibility is poor and animals are moving.
The best way to prevent wildlife collisions is to slow down. Reducing speed and maintaining a constant lookout for animals is the best way to avoid collisions.
“Deer are very active right now and there have been several serious deer/vehicle collisions recently,” said Sheridan Regional Wildlife Supervisor Joe Gilbert. “We are very concerned about public safety and ask motorists to do everything they can to avoid collisions with wildlife.”
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department advises people to be aware of roadside surroundings. When motorists spot animals near highways, they should not assume the animals will stay put.
Following a few simple steps can prevent many wildlife collisions:
• Slow down.
• Expect wildlife on roads.
• Scan the sides of the roads for wildlife.
• Stay alert while driving at dusk, dawn and at night and be prepared to stop.
• At night, travel at a speed that will allow you to stop in time if an animal comes into the beam cast by your headlights.
• If you see one elk, deer, or antelope by the road, expect there to be more nearby.
• If an animal is on the road, expect the unexpected. They do not instinctively know how to react to your car.
• If you encounter deer crossing the road after dark, switch your headlights to low beam so that the deer are not blinded and will move out of your way.
• Give the animal time and room to move off the road. Do not try to outrun it.
• If you see a wildlife-crossing sign, pay attention. It is there for a reason.
• Do not swerve to miss an animal. Steer toward the animal's hindquarters, as they most often will move forward.
Nationwide, more than 150 people are killed and 29,000 injured each year in animal/vehicle collisions. If you see an injured deer, call the nearest Game and Fish office with specific information about the location (road, mile-marker, etc.).
(Contact: Al Langston (307) 777-4540)