Last month, Watch for Wildlife encouraged Nova Scotians to participate in a letter writing campaign to urge the Nova Scotia Government to include wildlife-vehicle collision reporting in Traffic Safety Act regulations. We want to thank each of the over 600 people who sent letters advocating for mandatory reporting of wildlife vehicle collisions. The following is a letter sent to the regulatory team for the Traffic Safety Act by Watch for Wildlife’s founder, Wanda Baxter.
To the regulatory development team for the Traffic Safety Act,
I previously submitted a form letter through Watch for Wildlife as part of their letter writing campaign. This; however, is my independent submission to the regulatory dev. process of the Nova Scotia Traffic Safety Act. I developed the Watch for Wildlife program in collaboration with the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, and I have significant knowledge of and training in the field of road ecology and wildlife vehicle collision prevention.
I am writing today with specifics about why I want wildlife vehicle collisions to be reported and required as part of the collision reporting requirement of the Traffic Safety Act. I am also requesting consideration of the inclusion of reporting domestic animals involved in collisions. As someone who lost a horse to a vehicle collision and lives in rural NS, I know the danger that domestic animals and livestock can pose for drivers (and themselves); and that it is an overlooked consideration in collision reporting, and the information may be needed for policy development (i.e. fencing and signage requirements, etc.).a
The inclusion of details about the role of domestic animals (including livestock) and wildlife in collisions will provide data that can help reduce collisions. It can also provide information for research and wildlife crossing/fencing provisions.
Not collecting information re: the presence, injury and mortality of both domestic animals and wildlife indicates a lack of concern for these species and their protection (it also indicates lack of consideration for the owners of animals injured or killed in collisions). In addition, the absence of this information from collision reporting indicates a lack of interest in reducing the impacts of collisions on wildlife, the impacts on people from wildlife collisions, and the protection of endangered species (which are particularly vulnerable to vehicle collisions - and the data re: where species are injured or killed - would be particularly valuable).
Finally, I want to add a note about the need for appropriate response by authorities when wildlife or domestic animals are involved in collisions. There is no clear policy or regulation that specifies how to respond to animal species when hit by a car, and it is needed. If it does exist, it needs to be revisited and revised. Earlier this year a young bear was shot by police at the side of the road, within visibility of children who were in the car involved in the collision. That this was considered an appropriate response is concerning and needs to be looked at. A link to an article about that specific story is here: https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/my-kids-were-horrified-mom-children-witness-n-s-wildlife-officials-shoot-injured-bear-1.5097019
Attached are my recommendations for how information on wildlife and domestic animals involved in collisions with vehicles can and should be collected and included in collision reports. I have copied sections from the Regulations Respecting the Reporting of Collisions part of the Act for your consideration. My suggestions are included within the document in red.
Thank you for inviting public input as part of the development of regulations supporting the new Traffic Safety Act. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute. If you have any questions about my submission, please let me know.
Wanda Baxter, M. Env. Des.
Lunenburg County, NS
Wanda Baxter has a Master of Environmental Design with concentration in policy and planning from the University of Calgary. She developed the Watch for Wildlife program after identifying a lack of wildlife-vehicle collision prevention education and mitigation strategy in Nova Scotia. For details on her background, please see: www.linkedin.ca/in/wandabaxter
Wanda lives and works on a restored farmstead just north of Lunenburg NS and is the author of If I had an Old House on the East Coast, published by Nimbus Publishing.