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Urgency builds in preventing vehicle collisions with wildlife

U. J. Alexander - stock.adobe.com

Data show Wisconsin is among the top five states for car-animal collisions and on a national scale, wildlife advocates are highlighting efforts to prevent them.

The National Wildlife Federation reported there are more than 1 million such collisions in the U.S. each year, resulting in injuries and deaths, to animals, drivers and passengers. And costs associated with the accidents range between $8 billion and $11 billion annually.

Jeremy Romero, wildlife connectivity manager for the National Wildlife Federation, said another source of concern are the ecological effects.

"Roads, fences, development, things like that, are all types of fragmentation that decrease connectivity for wildlife to be able to move across the landscapes," Romero explained.

Romero fears the situation could worsen with projections showing higher traffic volumes in the coming years. He pointed to good news, though, with the federal government rolling out a new $350 million pilot program. States can apply for grants to pursue safe wildlife crossing infrastructure.

A 2021 investigative report found Wisconsin has many crossings for smaller animals, but not deer. Officials contended the projects are not as effective for deer in the region.

Still, Romero encouraged all states to beef up research and look at ways to reduce collisions, adding drivers can do their part.

"In this day and age, people are busy and on the go, and rushing in a lot of ways," Romero observed. "I think if you're in an area where you know there's a lot of wildlife, the best thing and the most immediate step you can take to prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions is to slow down."

Other tips include keeping an eye out for animal crossing signs, and to flicker your high beams when approaching wildlife in hopes of causing the animal to scurry away. The peak time of year for deer collisions is October through December, during hunting and mating seasons. Natural resources officials noted there can be an uptick in late spring, when fawning happens.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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