Think Like a Deer: Award-Winning Video Aims to Reduce Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions

Collisions between vehicles and wildlife are a big problem on U.S. roads. Each year, on average, 1-2 million collisions with large animals, especially mule deer and white-tailed deer, end in 200 fatalities, 26,000 injuries, and costs exceeding $1 billion. About a third of the collisions reported on rural roads are wildlife-related, and two-lane highways with speed limits exceeding 55 miles per hour are particularly problematic.

Deer see things differently in a highway situation. Instead of tracking movement by following objects with their eyes as people do, a deer’s eyes are stationary. This allows deer to detect movement from predators that may be lurking. So, to a deer, a car heading into its path may only seem like an object that’s increasing in size. Deer also see less detail than humans. And a deer’s keen night vision results from an ability to take in a lot of light, which makes headlights blinding.

U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station wildlife biologist Sandra Jacobson, a transportation ecology expert, wants to make roads safer for wildlife and people. She and partners at the agency’s Missoula Technology and Development Center have produced a video, “Avoiding Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions,” to do just that.

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