Avoiding vehicle-animal collisions

Where and when the most likely to meet an animal on the highway

By Ray FordRay Ford

282_istock_moose

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On a new section of Ontario’s Hwy. 69, north of the turnoff to Killarney, highway engineers are helping our moose (and other errant animals) arrive, accident-free, on the other side.

Ontario’s first large-animal wildlife overpass will allow moose, deer, elk, and bears to amble across a 30-metre-wide structure covered in grass, shrubs, and rocks—all while motorists zoom to and from the cottage on the four lanes below.

“We’re not only protecting motorists, we’re protecting wildlife as well,” says Ministry of Transportation environmental planner Heather Garbutt. With one out of every three crashes in northeastern Ontario involving wildlife, the ministry is looking for ways to make roads safer for users, whether they’re on two legs or four. Low-tech solutions include the “wolf’s eye” reflectors lining Manitoulin Island’s Hwy. 540. When headlights hit them, the reflections are supposed to startle away roadside deer.

More elaborate is the 12 km of 2.8-metre-high fence that will keep animals off this stretch of Hwy. 69, directing them to crossings such as enlarged culverts, river and creek banks beneath bridges, and the overpass. Animals trapped on the highway side of the fence can push through one-way gates to safety.

A similar fence along a 3.5-km section of Hwy. 11 south of North Bay has dropped large-animal collisions from an average of 4.6 per year to zero. The experiment has gone well enough that the ministry plans to put up more fencing, leaving a gap for a more high-tech approach: detecting animals with a radio signal. When the critter breaks the radio beam, warning signs will alert drivers to slow down.

Peak months for animal collisions:

May, June, and October to December

Danger hours:

5–7 a.m.

5–11 p.m.

Where they’re most likely to occur:

1. City of Ottawa

2. Simcoe County

3. Kenora District

4. Lanark County

5. Thunder Bay District

This article was originally published on April 24, 2009


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