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Collaboration, not divisiveness, required for solving problems like Wildlife Vehicle Collisions

 

written by Wanda Baxter, Program Manager, Watch for Wildlife NS - an Opinion piece/Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor/Opinion

I am writing for two reasons – first, to alert drivers to be especially vigilant on the roads at this time of year. Collisions with deer spike in October and November (approximately 40% more collisions with deer than at other times of year). It is rutting season which has them on the move, some deer also move to wintering areas, and hunting season can also cause deer to leave regions on the run or for safe cover. Deer on the move means more deer crossing roads, and more collisions – so please drive the speed limit, especially at dawn and dusk, with acute awareness that deer are more prevalent than usual.
 

The second reason I am writing is to bring attention to the complexity involved with trying to prevent wildlife vehicle collisions, and the collaboration needed across different organizations and disciplines. Recently a story was published (not in this publication) by a journalist who was concerned about the amount of roadkill he saw on his commute, and wondered how much wildlife is killed on our roads. He contacted me along with responsible authorities and the wildlife rescues to find out what he could. Unfortunately; though the story is a useful effort to find out what management and reporting processes there are in NS to record collisions and carcasses, and what is being done to reduce collisions; it also sets up a dichotomy between environmentalists and responsible authorities (in this case DNR and DOTIR Road Safety). This is a common format when issues that involve the environment are reported, but it often is not accurate or a useful set-up, and in this case it certainly isn’t.

The question the reporter wanted to know was how much wildlife is killed on our roads, and how many are too many animals and birds killed? What he found was that the numbers we know are either not reported, underreported or not accurate, and comprehensive collision data is not compiled nor available. It is a problem, for sure, and we need to do more, but the solution is not simple or about one side identifying another side as a problem.
I spearheaded Watch for Wildlife NS with the Sierra Club Canada Foundation because there was an obvious missing public education and research piece that we could help to deliver. Instead of working separately and ‘against’ responsible authorities, we reached out to and have been working with both DNR and DOTIR Road Safety from first considering the need for Watch for Wildlife. Watch for Wildlife has also had input from both departments and Wildlife Rescues in the development of public education materials, and we are glad to have partial funding from DOTIR’s Road Safety Division.

It is unfortunate that a recent article painted a different picture: one of challenge and divisiveness. As a society, we have only really begun to recognize the extent of the impacts of driving and road building on wildlife and habitat connectivity, human safety and the economy in the last 20 years. Identifying how best to reduce wildlife vehicle collisions and implement mitigation measures is complicated and expensive – and it will take cooperation across departments and organizations and require a range of different approaches and skill sets to enact. Working together is needed to deal with the widespread and pervasive nature of such problems as wildlife vehicle collisions and other impacts of linear transportation systems on nature (and us). Watch for Wildlife NS is working to raise awareness of how drivers can be more aware of wildlife on roads, how to prevent collisions, and how best to respond to collisions if they occur. This work is being done to enhance the work of DNR and DOTIR Road Safety, and is being done with their input. It’s going to take a lot of work and collective effort to minimize the impacts of our transportation systems on nature, and we are glad to work with responsible authorities and other organizations to do our part.

For information about Watch for Wildlife NS and wildlife collision prevention and associated research see www.watchforwildlife.ca. There are also links there for the DNR and DOTIR wildlife hotlines, as well as contact information for Nova Scotia Wildlife Rescues.

Please drive Safely, watch your speed, and be especially wary of deer on the roads at this time of year.

Wanda Baxter
Watch for Wildlife NS
Sierra Club Canada Foundation
 

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