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The phrase "deer in the headlights" became well-known for a reason. It's easy to accidentally hit animals while driving, but with a little bit of knowledge, it's sometimes preventable. Here are some tips to avoid accidents with wildlife and keep yourself, your property, and the animals safer.
Preventing Collisions with Wildlife
Like the Boy Scouts say, be prepared. Most human-animal crashes occur at dawn and dusk, when animals are most active. If you're driving during these hours, be alert. Autumn, especially November, is the peak time for these accidents. When it's dark, putting on your vehicle's high beams and lowering your dash lights will help you spot an animal more quickly.
- Watch the sides of the road for movement and stay alert. Animals may not realize you're a threat. And where there's one, there are usually more.
- Never throw anything out of your window. It brings scavengers into the road.
- Keep your speed down. Crashing at a higher speed is worse than at a lower speed.
- Don't swerve. It's better to hit an animal than roll your vehicle or crash into an oncoming semi-truck. The exception would be swerving to avoid a very large animal, such as a moose, which weighs as much as a car.
When to Call Wildlife Rescue
If you follow all these rules but still accidentally hit an animal, call wildlife rescue. Program the numbers of your local wildlife rescue group, animal control, and the nonemergency number of your police department into your cell phone. Crashes with large animals such as deer or elk can be true human emergencies, so even calling 911 might be necessary.
In some localities, you might be obligated to report an accident if you hit a domestic animal such as a dog or a cat. You could be liable for leaving the scene of an accident where you injure or kill someone's pet.
If You Injure or Kill an Animal While Driving
Should you injure an animal, first call wildlife rescue. Unless you can safely do so, do not move the animal. A frightened animal won't hesitate to bite or scratch, not realizing you are trying to help. It is best to alert people who are trained to handle animals. Put on your vehicle flashers for oncoming traffic.
For rescuing small animals, heavy gloves and an old towel come in handy. Transport the animal to a shelter, veterinarian, or wildlife rehabilitator.
Let them know the exact location of the accident for when they return the animal to the wild. Rescuers might also want to be sure there are no orphaned animals nearby.
Finally, let authorities know that the injured or dead animal is a traffic hazard. They will respond faster in order to clear the road quickly and help prevent more accidents.
If you are concerned about damage to your vehicle, check with your insurance company to be sure you are covered in the event of a car accident with wildlife.