Deer collisions increase around the return to Standard Time
Resetting your schedule as we return to Standard Time can be stressful enough, but an increase in deer collisions is an often-overlooked side effect of the time change.
Fall time change and deer migration coincide. Daniel Olson, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Migration Initiative Coordinator, said this can be a deadly combination for commuters.
“We have lots of deer in the state. So over 300,000 deer and other animals like elk and moose, but the majority of those animals are migratory. So they're moving from somewhere where they spent the summer to where they want to spend the winter. We have some deer that move up to 70 or 80 miles one way. And so when they're traveling that far, that often takes them across roads, and sometimes in front of your car,” Olson said.
Deer move uphill in the summer to find better food, but winter snowfall makes finding food and traveling difficult, pushing deer to move to lower elevations.
“What they're trying to do essentially is gain as much weight and get as fat as they can, so they can survive the winter. But when it snows, they have to move out of those high areas…and so it doesn't take much to force them out of the high elevation areas once it starts to snow,” Olson said.
Deer travel often at dawn and dusk, a common time for winter commutes. This can put distracted or tired drivers at risk, especially when driving through areas with large deer populations.
“A lot of times, deer will be moving at the twilight hours. So early in the morning and in the evening as it’s getting dark. Oftentimes those are the times when it's hardest to see animals…and so the time change kind of shifts our commute times to where they line up more with those twilight hours, which can cause problems for vehicle collisions, because not only do we have a lot of animals trying to move somewhere this time of year, they're also moving at times when there's lots of cars on the road,” Olson explained.
Wild Aware Utah has some tips about how to drive safely around wildlife:
- Pay attention near wildlife crossing signs, which are usually installed in areas with frequent wildlife collisions
- Use your high beams when possible
- Scan the roadsides for animals, especially in agricultural and wooded areas
- Slow down in low visibility areas or once you’ve spotted an animal near the road
For more tips on how to avoid wildlife collisions, visit https://www.wildawareutah.org/road-safety/