EUGENE, Ore. - State police responded to 4 crashes involving wildlife in 4 days as Oregon enters October and November, the worst months for vehicle-wildlife collisions.
Wildlife-involved traffic collisions have been on the rise in Oregon, according to statistics from the Oregon DOT's Crash Analysis & Reporting Section.
In 2013, ODOT received reports of 1,274 such crashes, similar to the 1,283 crashes reported in 2012 and up from 1,199 reported in 2011.
Overall, reports are approximately 24 percent higher than in 2008 (974 reported crashes). ODOT statistics indicate since 2004 there have been more than 9,800 reported wildlife-involved collisions in Oregon, resulting in 29 fatalities; 12 of those fatalities were motorcyclists or motorcycle passengers.
Over the past 10 years, more than a third of the total reported vehicle-wildlife crashes occurred September - November. The deadliest encounters have taken place in Josephine and Deschutes counties, but no county in the state is untouched by these incidents. Those with the highest total crashes reported are Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath and Lane.
State police and transportation officials believe the numbers are actually higher because most collisions involving wildlife result in property damage only to the involved vehicle and do not get reported to police or DMV.
Between September 27 and October 1, OSP troopers responded to four vehicle-wildlife crashes:
- On September 27, 2014, at 6:43 a.m., a sport utility driven by a 22-year-old woman was northbound on Highway 7 near milepost 3 in Grant County in Eastern Oregon when an elk crossed the highway. The driver swerved to miss the elk, lost control and went off the highway where her vehicle collided head-on into a tree. The driver was transported by ambulance to an area hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.
- On September 27, 2014, at 6:48 a.m., a vehicle traveling eastbound on Highway 26 near milepost 134 in Grant County struck an elk crossing the highway. The injured elk was found in a field off the highway and dispatched due to its injury. The driver wasn't injured.
- On September 29, 2014, at 2:22 a.m., a passenger car traveling northbound on Highway 97 near milepost 191 in Klamath County struck a deer crossing the highway. The vehicle was damaged and had to be towed from the scene. The vehicle's airbags deployed. The driver was uninjured.
- On October 1, 2014 at approximately 9:30 p.m., two women received minor injuries while traveling eastbound on Interstate 84 near milepost 236 in the Meacham area when their passenger car struck an elk in the traffic lane.
During this season, state officials urge drivers to be aware of the possible dangers associated with animals on or near our highways.
The following information may help reduce these incidents:
- The annual deer rut season typically lasts from late October to mid-to-late November, increasing deer activity in and around roadways.
- During the next few months there will be fewer daylight hours and visibility will be challenged by darkness and winter weather conditions.
- Be attentive at all times, but especially sunset to sunrise.
- When driving in areas that have special signs indicating the possible presence of animals/wildlife, please use extra caution because these signs are posted for a reason.
- Be extra careful in areas where there is a lot of vegetation next to the road or while going around curves. Wildlife near the road may not be visible.
- Remember that the presence of any type of animal/wildlife could also mean that others are nearby.
- When you see an animal/wildlife near or on the roadway, reduce your speed and try to stay in your lane. Many serious crashes are the result of drivers swerving to avoid wildlife or other obstacles and they crash into another vehicle or lose control of their own vehicle.
- The same advice applies for smaller wildlife like nutria or raccoons - try to stay in your lane and do not swerve for these animals. They are less dangerous to vehicles than big game animals; losing control of your vehicle is a larger concern.
- Always wear your safety belt, as even the slightest collision could result in serious injuries.
Efforts have been made in high-incidence areas to allow wildlife to travel under or over the road. This video describes one such effort in Central Oregon.