January 7, 2015 · 0 Comments
By Mark Pavilons
Wildlife is common in rural areas, and when they wander into the road, it can be life-threatening.
Nearby Caledon OPP report their officers have investigated “a significant number” of motor vehicle collisions involving wildlife in recent weeks. (York Regional Police don’t keep such statistics.)
As drivers, many of us are aware that any contact between a motor vehicle and an animal can result in significant damage and in some cases even death. Drivers are being asked to be vigilant and to watch for large wild animals crossing roadways throughout the area as many of these animals are making their way to higher ground in preparation for winter.
On average, there is a motor vehicle/wild animal collision every 38 minutes in Ontario.
One out of every 17 motor vehicle collisions involves a wild animal and the bulk (89%) occur on two-lane roads outside of urban areas.
Wild animals are always unpredictable. We are currently in a peak time (through January) when the risk of collisions with animals is at the highest.
Nathalie Karvonen, director of the Toronto Wildlife Centre said obviously, human safety is paramount. Never pull over to contain or help an animal where visibility is low, traffic is heavy, or people’s lives could be put in danger.
If it is safe to do so, some animals can be contained by members of public.
For birds, the best way is to throw a blanket or towel (in a pinch, a jacket or a sweater will do) over the bird, taking care to cover its head and eyes. If it is a bird of prey, be especially cautious about the bird’s feet, which have sharp talons they may use in defence. The bird can then be gently picked up and placed in a cardboard box with the lid closed, and kept in a dark, quiet place until a wildlife rehabilitator can be contacted.
Don’t give it any food or water in the meantime. Call Toronto Wildlife Centre’s hotline or visit their website for more tips on how to contain birds.
For small mammals, Karvonen said the safest way to contain them is usually to place a sturdy box or bin right over the animal, and shimmy a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood underneath, securing them together with rope, bungee cords, or duct tape. Again, keep the animal in a dark, quiet spot until a wildlife rehabilitator can be contacted. Don’t give it any food or water in the meantime.
Turtles can be gently lifted into a sturdy plastic bin or heavy cardboard box. Water should not be put in the bin, but it should be covered up completely. For snapping turtles, the steps for small mammals can be followed.
Karvonen stressed that if the animal or the situation is dangerous, or the injured animal is mobile, please call the hotline right away and stay nearby keeping an eye on the animal. Staff may be able to talk you through containing, or if necessary can make arrangements to get their Rescue Team involved.
Sometimes, especially on 400-series highways, TWC may need to ask the police for help with stopping or directing traffic so that the animal can be safely rescued.
In King Township, Toronto Wildlife Centre should be called for any wildlife concerns. Karvonen said not to bring sick or injured wildlife to your veterinarian, but rather keep them in a quiet, dark place until you can speak with Toronto Wildlife Centre.
Councillor Linda Pabst, who represents the largely rural Ward 3 said drivers need to learn not to swerve to miss rabbits, skunks, etc. even though it is the natural thing to do. The former EMS driver said crashes, caused by people losing control, cause many serious injuries.
The best practice, she said, is to slow down, drive the posted speed limit – you have more chance to have less injury.
“We are always in a hurry to get to our destination but better to get there safe and take a little longer,” she observed.
To reduce risks of collisions, scan the road ahead from shoulder to shoulder. When you see wildlife beside the road, slow down and pass carefully as they may suddenly bolt onto the road.
Watch for the yellow wildlife warning signs that indicate an area of increased risk. Slow down when travelling through these areas.
Use high beams at night where possible and watch for glowing eyes of animals.
Stay in control. Watch your speed and take extra precautions when driving at night as visibility is greatly reduced. Slowing down will give you that extra second to respond.
Brake firmly if an animal is standing on, or crossing, the road. Never assume the animal will move out of your way.
Stop as safely as possible if a wild animal is crossing the road. Remember, if one animal crosses the road, others may follow.
People who live adjacent to highways are encouraged not to feed deer during the winter as this increases the probability of motor vehicle collisions, resulting in more personal injuries and increased deer mortality.
Motorists should watch for these potential problem areas and drive carefully when passing through them.
For more information, please refer to the Ministry of Transportation website mto.gov.on.ca or the Toronto Wildlife Centre, http://www.torontowildlifecentre.com.