The number of auto collisions involving big game animals typically rises during fall and winter, so Idaho Fish and Game encourages motorists to slow down and be extra cautious.
A cow elk was hit recently by a school bus on Highway 21 near Idaho City, and just last week, two people were hospitalized after a cow moose caused a three-vehicle collision on Interstate 86 east of American Falls.
“Being extra careful and watchful is the best defense against a wildlife/vehicle collision," said Krista Biorn, Fish and Game habitat biologist. "Drivers should slow down and allow a few extra minutes to their travel time for their own safety, and the safety of Idaho's wildlife."
Snow at upper elevations triggers the migration of deer, elk and other big game to lower-elevation winter range, and many will be crossing Idaho’s highways and roads. This migration increases the risk you will encounter wildlife on or near roads and highways.
Collisions between vehicles and wildlife are not only dangerous, they are expensive. Hitting a deer or elk often results in thousands of dollars in vehicle damage, not to mention a preventable loss of wildlife.
The following are tips to help reduce your chances of an animal collision:
- Game animals are especially active at dawn, dusk and at night. Motorists should drive extra cautious during these times.
- Slow down. Driving more slowly increases reaction time and reduces the chance of a collision.
- Always wear your seat belt. This won't prevent a collision, but it can save your life depending upon the severity of the accident.
- Scan ahead and watch for movement, especially near the fog line and side of the road. When driving at night, watch for shining eyes in headlights.
- If you see one animal cross the road, slow down immediately and look for more to follow.
- Pay extra attention in areas posted with wildlife crossing signs. They are there for good reason.
- Using high beams can help you spot wildlife, but be considerate of other drivers when using them.
- Don't swerve and risk losing control of your vehicle. Try to brake as much as possible and stay on the roadway. The most serious crashes occur when drivers lose control of their vehicles trying to avoid an animal. It is usually safer to strike the animal than another object such as a tree or another vehicle.
Some accidents are unavoidable. Motorists should report any injury collision to the public safety dispatcher by calling 911, which will send officers to the scene. If possible, move your vehicle to a safe place and alert on-coming traffic with your emergency flashers until law enforcement authorities arrive.
If you come across a dead animal on the side of the road, you can report the roadkill on the Fish and Game website at https://idfg.idaho.gov/species/roadkill. The data collected on wildlife collisions helps document collisions and identify hot zones, which could potentially lead to improving highway safety.