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Have Summer Travel Plans? Wildlife Do Too.

Written by Kristin Elton, M.E.S., our new Watch for Wildlife Program Coordinator for NB

With the countdown on until the official start of summer, people everywhere are eagerly anticipating their weekends at the cottage, camping trips, and the general sense of adventure that comes with this time of year. Or perhaps you just enjoy having a few extra hours of daylight to get things done. Either way, summer means more people are out and about. Not surprisingly, it’s the same for wildlife.

Wildlife species are on the move at this time of year for a variety of reasons. Spring has sprung which means one thing in the animal kingdom; babies, babies, babies! Many species (ie. foxes, raccoons, porcupines, geese, ducks, etc.) have emerged from their nests and dens and are starting to introduce their little ones to the world. Reptiles are out of hibernation, meaning turtles are slowly making their way from one pond to another and snakes are out searching for the best basking spots to soak up the warm sun. Deer & moose are out seeking the best branches to browse, and our amphibious friends like frogs and salamanders are making their way to their very specific breeding areas for some summer lovin’. Geese and ducks are busy teaching swimming lessons and follow the leader. Needless to say, the wild creatures we share the world with have things to do and places they need to get to.

So what do you get with more people on the roads and more wildlife movement? You guessed it: there is an increase in wildlife-vehicle collisions. And, given that it is unlikely that either group could be convinced to change their summer plans to accommodate the other, we are left to adapt to each other.

Now, to be fair, wildlife already does a significant amount of adapting to us; the mere presence of roads requires that they already modify their natural movement patterns, and they don’t have the same assessment abilities or strategic thinking we do. As such, it is up to us as drivers to adjust to wildlife as much as we can, and a little bit of vigilance at this time of year can go a long way. In addition to the key recommendations of scanning ahead, watching your speed, and braking to slow down when safe to do so, there are a few other things to keep in mind that can help reduce summer wildlife-vehicle collisions:

  • If you see an adult animal, be sure to look for babies; as I said earlier, this time of year means babies, babies, babies!
  • Keep in mind that there are a lot more “low-profile” animals on the roads at this time of year, so scan ahead as well as on the pavement for animals like snakes who tend to gravitate to the warm pavement, and turtles who lay their eggs in the gravel shoulder of the road and can look like stones on the road
  • Similarly, frogs and salamanders tend to migrate all at once, so if you spot one frog on the road, there are likely more to watch out for – sometimes a LOT
  • Summer road trips mean a lot more eating in our cars, and even though that apple core or banana peel is biodegradable, it’s still not a good idea to throw it out the window to the side of the road. Not only does this attract animals to the side of the road (or on the road) for the food, but it also attracts the predators of these animals - particularly birds of prey - who risk being hit by vehicles while diving in for what they mistakenly deem to be an easy meal out in the open
     

Wildlife-vehicle collisions are a year round concern, but being aware of the changing behavior of wildlife and their increased presence at this time of year can help to reduce collisions with them. After all, wildlife has no choice but to try to adapt to our comings and goings throughout the summer, so why shouldn’t we make an attempt to adapt to theirs?

Photo Credit: Ezra Wolfe, Creative Commons.

Kristin Elton is Watch For Wildlife’s Program Coordinator for New Brunswick. She has a M.E.S degree in Planning from the University of Waterloo and expertise in road ecology, environmental education, and community outreach. She is located in Fredericton, NB.

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