by Dennis Matherly on 06/03/18
The heat is on and our local wildlife is on the move. Many animals viewed as pests are often discovered as roadkill this time of year. As our homes and developments take away more and more of their natural habitat, we encounter wildlife more often, especially on our roadways. Even animals many view as pests have important roles in our local ecosystems. For example, a single opossum can eat thousands and thousands of ticks throughout the summer and they're immune to Lyme - serving a very important role in protecting us from tick-borne illnesses.
Additionally, some types of critters are suffering from declining populations due to being hit and killed by cars on our roadways. Turtles are a strong example of this issue. Turtle populations have been dropping steadily, in part due to roadway deaths. Local wildlife to watch for while driving include raccoons, geese, ducks, turtles, opossum, vultures, bobcats, deer, foxes, coyotes, rabbits, squirrels, frogs, snakes and bears.
Tips to Avoid Hitting Animals While Driving
Avoiding animals on the road isn't just good for them, it's good for you as well. Even small animals can cause damage to your vehicle and costly repairs or even cause a loss of control resulting in an accident. And all animals have a role in our ecosystem and should be respected.
1. Be aware! - Distracted driving is a danger no matter where you are driving. If you're driving in wooded or wildlife-heavy areas, being aware can save an animal's life and yours too. Look for motion in roadside grasses or shrubs and watch for movement when driving in wooded areas for signs of wildlife near the roadway.
2. Stay calm and slow down/stop - If you do encounter an animal in the roadway, remain calm and slow down or stop, if needed. Don't honk your horn or flash your headlights at a wild animal as many will freeze when frightened and compound the problem. However, if you are stopped for an animal crossing the roadway, it is a good idea to turn your hazard lights or flashers on to alert other drivers to be cautious.
3. Also look for animals in the distance - Turtles, for example, can look like rocks from a distance. Keep an eye out for anything that looks different or unusual on your route, both up close and from a distance to notice animals on the road as soon as you can.
4. When you see one, expect more - Many animals travel in small groups or pairs. Deer for example, often travel in small groups so when you see one, expect there are others nearby, slow down, and be alert. Also, when you see an animal run across the roadway, keep in mind that animal might be running away from another animal (even a pet dog or cat). Many people avoid hitting the first animal but wind up hitting the second animal in these situations.
Our local wildlife is diverse and each animal plays a role in our ecosystem. Unfortunately, as we build homes and roads and take over more of their habitat, we encounter them more frequently on our roadways. Being aware and knowing what to look for can go a long way in keeping you and our local wild animals safe.