I see so many dead raccoons on the road. Why are they hit by cars so often? And how can I be aware of them on the road at night?
It certainly seems to be an all too familiar sight – seeing a dead raccoon that’s been hit by a vehicle. And raccoons aren’t the only animals that get hit. So do squirrels, birds, skunks, deer, foxes, turtles and many more wild creatures.
With more than a million kilometres of (two-lane equivalent) roads in Canada and with 34.3 million vehicles registered as of 2017, crossing a road isn’t an easy task for wildlife. So, why do they even try? There are a number of reasons, including:
- They are simply just trying to get to the other side. With such an extensive network of roads, a lot of wildlife habitat is fragmented.
- Some species are attracted to roads to get relief from biting insects.
- They could be attracted to a food source – maybe a scavenger is attracted to roadkill, wildlife could be attracted to food that was thrown out of a car, they may be attracted to an increase in forage availability because of roadside mowing, and in agricultural areas they could be attracted to crops and product spillage.
- In winter, cleared roads allow for easier movement for wildlife.
- Some species may find road salt appealing during the winter months.
How can you be aware of raccoons and other wildlife and reduce your chances of hitting them? Try these tips:
- Dawn, dusk and the first few hours of darkness tend to be times when many animals are most active. Make sure to follow speed limits.
- As you drive, keep an eye out for signs of wildlife in ditches and along both sides of the road. As drivers, we tend to pay more attention to the right side of the road, and our headlights tend to light up that side of the road better as well.
- When able to, drive with your high beams on to increase your visibility and watch for eye shine – animals’ eyes reflecting off your headlights.
- Concentrate exclusively on the road when driving. Turn off your radio, put your phone away and don’t try to pick up items around your car while you’re driving. If you have a passenger, let them help with tasks or safely pull over if it can’t wait!
- If you see a wild animal, always assume there’s more than one. Many mothers have young in tow, and during mating seasons you may find a male animal pursuing a female.
- If you see an animal on or near the road, slow down, flash your headlights and honk your horn. It may be enough to scare the animal off the road and out of harm’s way.
- Don’t throw food out of your car window! Discarded food items can attract animals to the road. It’s best to keep food and properly dispose of it when you get to your destination.
- Take special caution on two-lane roads that are surrounded by fields or woods, or where there’s a stream under a road. It’s been found that many collisions with animals occur in these areas.
- Slow down when you see a wildlife crossing sign. They’re placed in locations where there is an increased risk of collisions or where it is known that wildlife commonly cross.