Cottage Q&A: Car vs. moose stats

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How common is it for cars to hit moose? I was curious about this after reading an article about a collision on a Saskatchewan highway that sent three people to the hospital.—Annika Kent, Kamloops, B.C.

Well, it’s not as common as, say, cars hitting traffic cones during roadwork season. But it does happen wherever roads bisect moose habitat.

Canada’s Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) collects data on fatal wildlife–vehicle crashes; from 2000 to 2014 (the most up-to-date numbers on record), 236 people in Canada died in moose–vehicle collisions. That’s almost double the number of people killed in collisions with deer and a lot more than the number of people killed in crashes involving other, smaller animals. But that doesn’t mean cars hit moose more frequently than they hit other mammals, birds, reptiles, or anything else. 

Logic time! “Your chances of hitting a moose are proportional to the number of moose in the population,” says Roy V. Rea, a senior laboratory instructor at the University of Northern British Columbia who studies the mitigation of wildlife–vehicle collisions. “Here in B.C., we have far more deer, and so we hit deer much more often—three times as much—than moose. But moose cause a much greater impact to the car, and, per animal, they kill and injure a lot more people.”

And it turns out, when it comes to hard numbers, it’s easier to collect data on fatal animal–vehicle interactions than it is on non-fatal ones, since most car vs. small wildlife collisions aren’t reported to any kind of body that might record the incidents: the police or RCMP, conservation officers, insurance companies, or departments of natural resources. The TIRF doesn’t have official data on the number of non-fatal moose–vehicle crashes, or on non-fatal crashes involving only small animals, but, according to its annual public behaviour survey, it’s definitely deer and small animals that drivers report hitting or “almost hitting” most frequently, not moose. 

So, common? No. Possible? Of course. But that’s why you slow down and stay extra-alert wherever moose hazard signs are posted. That said, in some places, moose populations are declining, says Rea. This means that in those areas, even with urban sprawl and road expansions into moose habitat, there are generally fewer collisions with moose. “If there are fewer moose, there are fewer to hit.”

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