Avoiding moose and vehicle collisions

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

SOUTHWEST COAST – On Tuesday, June 14, RCMP NL revealed that they responded to eight moose-vehicle collisions since the previous Saturday afternoon and while no injuries were reported, it shows the importance of being vigilant. The Department of Fisheries, Forestry, and Agriculture, in response to email inquiries, said this number is not uncommon for this time of year.

“The highest annual peak in moose-vehicle collisions (MCVs) commences in late spring and early summer and corresponds with the birthing period for moose. Moose give birth to newborn calves in mid- to-late May. A newborn moose will remain with its mother for the entire year, but prior to giving birth, the female will drive away last year’s calf, now classified as a yearling. Yearling moose must find new ranges without the guidance of their mothers, and this age class is vulnerable to a collision. Increased traffic flow during summer months also accounts for spikes and peaks in the number of MVCs.”

The department said these yearlings and their movement within the population contribute to the higher number of MVCs.

“The number of moose-vehicle collisions tends to be lowest during winter months. Seventy per cent of all MVCs occur between May and October. As stated, the spring increase is associated with the females preparing for birth of newborn calves; in the fall, it is associated with the breeding cycle for moose. During this period, moose are more active and increase their average daily movements, thereby making them more vulnerable to come into contact with vehicular traffic.”

Roads that run through areas of prime moose habitat tend to attract moose that feed on the vegetation along the roadside, seeking relief from flies, and to travel on the roads to avoid deep snow in winter. Provincial government website data shows that even in areas with low moose density, they are still attracted to roadways.

There are numerous steps can be taken to avoid an MVC. The recommendations include:

• Slow down when driving at night. This will allow you more time to respond to a moose on or near the highway

• Pay attention to Warning Signs; they mark High-Risk areas. Slow down and watch for moose

• Scan both sides of the road ahead as far as possible, especially when driving in a posted High-Risk accident zone.

The best way to avoid an accident is to spot the moose well in advance. Drivers report that in most accidents they did not see the moose until immediately before impact

Moose on the right side of the vehicle are avoided more often than those on the left because drivers concentrate more on the right. Therefore, it important to scan both sides of the road.

• Use extreme caution whenever you see an animal. No matter what it appears to be doing or how far it is from the road, slow down

• Moose are unpredictable. The moose you see standing calmly at the edge of the road could bolt in front of your vehicle at the last moment

• Don’t let yourself be distracted. A driver who is alone and concentrating on the road is less likely to strike a moose, than is a driver whose attention wanders while talking to a passenger

• Remember most accidents occur on clear nights and on straight road sections, maybe because drivers are more cautious on curves or in poor weather

• Keep your windshield and headlights clean

• Drive with your headlights on high beam unless approaching, or overtaking, other traffic

• Wear your seat belts. Seat belts save lives

There are currently no plans to add more fencing as a means to address MVCs. However, steps are taken each year to reduce risks.

“Brush cutting is ongoing at various locations across the province to address a variety of factors, including increasing visibility along roads to reduce MVCs.”

Injuries and deaths can result from moose-vehicle collisions, with many injuries resulting in hospitalization, time off of work, and loss of pay. The cost estimates for vehicle damage alone total more than $1 million each year.

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