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Wildlife Winterization And You

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The falls in Utah are arguably one of the best seasons to enjoy the outdoors. As the heat of the summer abates and the days shorten, the landscape becomes ablaze with vibrant colors and are a cacophony of new sounds. Elk bugling and flocks of cackling migrating geese overhead herald the changing season and the onset of winter.

Just as we humans prepare for winter, so must Utah’s wildlife winterize. For wildlife, winter is a time of cold coupled with low food supplies and reduced cover to protect them from predators and the weather.

Some of wildlife’s winterization strategies may create conflicts with humans as animals may seek food and cover in our homes. For example, rodents such as mice, and squirrels may search out opening in homes which they enter and take up residence.  Seasonal moose, elk, and deer migrations may increase the risks of negative encounters with humans are the animal’s cross highways that bi-sect their historical migration corridors.

You can reduce your risk of negative encounters with wildlife during the wildlife winterization period by becoming more familiar with the wildlife near you and their habits.  In the case if unwanted wildlife entering your home, the best way to reduce your risk is to check your doors, windows, and foundations for cracks and other gaps that might allow an animal to enter your home. These should be sealed as part of your annual home winterization activities.

In the case of migrating animals that may cross roads, your best strategy to avoid an encounter is increased awareness. Watch for deer especially around dawn and between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., when they're most active.

Be aware. Look out for deer-crossing signs and wooded areas where animals are likely to travel. If you travel the same route to and from work every day, you may find deer consistently grazing in the same fields. Make a mental note of when and where you regularly see the animals.

Be alert. If you see an animal on the side of the road, slow down. At night when traffic permits, put on your high beams for improved visibility.

Brake, don’t swerve. Swerving to avoid an animal can put you at risk for hitting another vehicle or losing control of your car. It can also confuse the animal as to which way to go. Instead, just slow down as quickly and safely as you can. Your odds for surviving an accident are better when hitting an animal than hitting another car.

Assume migrating deer have friends. The adage “where there’s one, there’s usually more” often holds true. Deer travel in groups, so if you see one run across the road, expect others to follow.

And, lastly always buckle up and put stay off your cell phone. A seat belt is your best defense for minimizing your risk in a crash. An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that 60 percent of the people killed in animal-vehicle collisions weren’t wearing their seat belts.

More information at WildAwareUtah.org