1992, ANIMAL PEOPLE has
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Roadkill Avoidance Tips from ANIMAL PEOPLE
Compiled by Merritt Clifton, Editor in Chief
Permission is hereby
granted to reproduce this document
in its entirety, in conformity with its implicit
purpose of educating the public about the roadkill
problem, provided due credit is given
to Animal People magazine. NOTE: In the
near future we plan to expand this tipsheet to include advice on
not native to North America.
Birds > Many birds cannot rise fast enough
to evade an oncoming car,unless they fly directly ahead of the car,
using the air current itpushes to provide extra lift. If you brake
too abruptly for a bird flying straight ahead of you, you may take
away the push he needs and send him crashing into your windshield.
Lift your foot off the gas and slow down gently, gradually, until
the bird rises above your car or peels away to one side.
Cats >Cars kill about 5.4 million cats per
year--more, by a million-plus, than are killed in U.S. animal shelters!
Most of them are hit at night. Typically cats know cars are dangerous,
but confuse the beams from your headlights with your car itself.
When the lights go by them, they think it's safe to dash out. Expect
them to make this mistake and you'll be prepared to react if they
Dogs >1.2 million dogs were killed on
U.S. roads last year, and most ofthem were likely chasing something
-- a ball, a child, a cat, asquirrel. When you see anything that
a dog might chase enter theroad, look for the dog coming close
Opossums >Opossums feast on roadkill, a habit
that gets about 8.3million opossums a year roadkilled. A large object
in the road atnight may be roadkill and an opossum, who may either
freeze in yourheadlights or try to run away. Opossums don't run very
fast, soslow down until you've positively identified the situation.
Rabbits >Common in late
spring through early fall, a rabbit scaredout of the road by the
of you might circle right
back intothe road. A quick tap of your horn as
you approach where the rabbitwent may freeze
him out of harm's way.
Beavers > In spring
and early summer young beavers leave their parents
to seek their own pond. They move slowly, usually
at night, and can be hard to see -- but if you're
driving near wetlands, expect them. They typically
try to cross roads at culverts.
Raccoons > Raccoons often travel in
family groups of up to seven members, so if one raccoon is hit,
the rest may stay beside
her and get hit, too. Raccoons also scavenge
roadkills. They'll turn to face a sudden danger, often stepping
into the path of a
speeding car. Try to avoid getting their attention.
Don't jam on the brakes, don't accelerate; just ease off the gas
Turtles >In spring, so many turtles
are hit by cars as they migrate between breeding ponds that many
regionally endangered. If you're near wetlands
and see a rounded lump in the road, assume it's
a turtle until you know otherwise.
Squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits >Squirrels,
chipmunks, and rabbits are among the hardest
species to avoid. All three evade predators, when on the
ground, chiefly through their ability to rapidly
change directions. The surest way to avoid a
rabbit, chipmunk, or squirrel is to stop
and wait until the critter is safely out of the
road. As long as you're still moving forward,
the rabbit, chipmunk, or squirrel
will continue to assess your car as a threat
akin to a dog or fox, only bigger, or as a hawk,
and may keep switching and reversing
course. This explains why some fairly extensive
studies have discovered that speed is not a factor
in killing squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks:
they are as likely to get hit by a slow-moving
car as one going like a bat out of hell, simply
because they zig-zag in the wrong
direction, mis-guessing which way the driver
will swerve. Fortunately, it is easy to anticipate
when you're likely to see rabbit, chipmunk,
or squirrel. Rabbits are most plentiful in lightly
wooded areas or alongside brushy ditches, from
the end of spring through the
end of summer. They may be seen either day or
night. At night they freeze in the glare of headlights.
Chipmunks and squirrels take
to the roads in greatest number at the end of
summer, when windy weather at the onset of fall
tends to litter roadsides with edible
nuts. Chipmunks and squirrels will remain plentiful
on the roads in tree-lined areas until after
the first snowfall. They are usually
out only in broad daylight.
than 100 Americans are killed each year in deer/car
and 70% of the time the driver slowed down
for one deer, then stepped on the gas and hit
another. Deer babies are as big as their mamas
in October and November, but they are
still babies, and they still follow Mama. Mamas
often have two fawns, so if you see one deer,
slow down and look for two more.
In spring and summer, deer hide from danger.
In fall, when the leaves are down, they run.
More than half of all deer/car collisions
occur in October and November. If you see hunters'
vehicles parked by the road, watch for frightened
deer running from gunfire, or
hunters and/or dogs driving deer. If you see
a deer bolt right in front of you in daylight
or twilight during hunting season,
too close even to brake, try to duck below the
dashboard with a shoulder between your head and
your airbag, if any, if you hit
the deer hard. Driver fatalities tend to result
from a deer coming through the windshield after
having her legs knocked out from under
her. The lower you are, the better-protected
you are from this type of accident--but no strategy
is perfect. You may get hurt
no matter what you do. If you miss the deer,
keep your head protected by your headrest and
the door post as you drive across the deer's
path. We get several reports a year of drivers
being killed or wounded by hunters who (illegally)
shoot across roads at deer.
Skunks >Skunks newly awakened from
winter hibernation are slow to recognize danger. When threatened,
to turn their backs and spray. If you see a skunk
beside the road, don't slowdown abruptly. The
skunk may think you've seen him and
will attack. Act as if you're minding your own
business and he'll go on about minding his. In
July and August, a skunk may be leading
four to seven kittens across the road, and they
may trail up to 20 feet behind her. If you see
one skunk, look for more before
assuming it's safe to pass.
Snakes >Cold-blooded snakes will warm
themselves on pavement in late summer, but they often can't move
when a car
approaches. If you see a straight object that
looks like a stick in the road, assume it's a
snake until you know it isn't.
Woodchucks >Woodchucks dart out on
the road much like cats, hunched low to the ground to avoid being
Drivers, who often
mistake them for cats, tend to allow enough time
for a cat to cross in front of them; but that
fat brown cat in the road ahead may
actually be a woodchuck, a woodchuck at best
moves only half as fast, and 5million woodchucks
a year get hit by cars.
Frogs >In wet weather, if you're near
a pond or ditch and it's not yet cold weather, you'll likely be
freeze in your headlights, so don't expect them
to move. Slow down and try to drive around them.
Moose >In winter, moose will lick road
salt and travel along ploughed roads. At night,
moose are almost invisible because
they are dark, don't make sudden moves, and are
tall enough that your tired eyes, fixed to the
headlit roadway, may not recognize
them. Slow down in moose country, and keep your
eyes moving up and to the sides. In case of impact,
duck under your dashboard,
with a shoulder between your head and your airbag,
if any. As with deer, fatalities usually result
from the animal coming through
the windshield--but any moose/car collision can
be fatal, no matter what you do.
feast on roadside grass or berries, especially
in remote country, so beware of thickets
to the road. When
bears bolt across roads, they often do it at
a dead run, and babies follow Mama. If you see
one bear, look for two more. And look out
for bear-watchers who have stopped their cars in
Armadillos >Because I have never lived
anywhere that armadillos occurred,I have had no opportunity
to observe their behavior around
cars anddevelop appropriate avoidance tips.
Statistical data indicates,however, that armadillos rank
among the 10 mammal species mostlikely to
be hit. If anyone has armadillo avoidance tips,
I'd liketo add them to this roster.
All Species >It's
easier and safer to anticipate animals in
the road than it is to miss them once
they're in front of you. Watch for sudden
movement in roadside grass and shrubbery.
Remember that most lines in the woods
are vertical -- if you see something horizontal,
it may be an animal.
by Merritt Clifton, editor, ANIMAL PEOPLE.
to the North Shore Animal League, Ark Trust, Michigan
Humane Society, Society of Environmental Journalists, Brewster
Bartlett a.k.a. Dr. Splatt, and Animal Protection Institute for
publication and distribution of previous editions of these tips,
which I have been developing and reissuing at least annually via ANIMAL
PEOPLE since 1992.)
[ANIMAL PEOPLE is the leading independent
newspaper providing original investigative coverage of animal protection
worldwide, founded in 1992. Our readership of 30,000-plus includes the
decision-makers at more than
8,300 animal protection organizations. We have no alignment or affiliation
with any other entity.]