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Oh, Deer! Avoiding Wildlife on the Highway

Avoiding wildlife on the highway blog header

Important driving tips as peak season approaches

Fall brings beautiful autumn colours and more wildlife onto Ontario’s roads – and a need for drivers to be extra vigilant.

The number of animal strikes on Ontario roads has increased from 8,964 in 1999 to 13,152 in 2014, including two fatalities and 410 injuries, according to the Ontario Road Safety Annual Report. This represents a 45 per cent increase over a 15-year period.

Crashes involving animals – mainly moose and deer – are a growing problem. October to January is a peak time for vehicle collisions with wildlife, and autumn is the most dangerous time. Collisions with wild animals can result in serious vehicle damage, personal injury, or even death.

Approximately 13,000 highway collisions in Ontario each year involve wildlife, with an estimated cost of more than $1 billion, and the number is growing. In northeastern Ontario, wildlife collisions are even more frequent, and can account for as high as 50 per cent of the total number of collisions along some highways. The risks to drivers are especially high in remote areas of the province, where the likelihood of encountering a large animal on the roadway is higher.

Employees at high risk


For Ontario workers, motor vehicle incidents account for more than 38 percent of all worker traumatic fatalities, including wildlife collisions. Driving is one of the highest risk activities an employee can undertake. Unlike a worksite, employers cannot control the types of drivers and vehicles that share the road with their employees.

If employers have workers driving from site to site, travelling to a meeting, or even going

out on a coffee run, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board considers them to be occupational drivers. Between 2006 and 2010, the board reported more than 7,000 lost-time injury claims and 149 fatalities involving occupational driving.

Did you know?

  • On average, there is a motor vehicle-wild animal collision every 38 minutes
  • One out of every 17 motor vehicle collisions involves a wild animal
  • Motor vehicle-wild animal collisions are increasing annually. In 2014, 13, 152 collisions were reported. Many more go unreported.
  • 89 percent occur on two-lane roads outside of urban areas
  • 86 percent occur in good weather
  • Wild animals are unpredictable at all times, however, there are two peak times when the risk of a collision is highest: May and June and from October to January.

If you could talk to the animals
Frequently asked questions about animal behaviour

What should drivers know about wildlife behaviour in order to anticipate hazards? 

Animal behaviour is related to the “fight-or-flight response.” There is a certain amount of space in which an animal feels safe; but once that boundary is violated, the animal’s reaction is unpredictable. Even if an animal sees you, it may still jump in front of your vehicle. Some animals travel together, for example deer, bears, and mother-offspring pairs. If one animal crosses the road, others may follow. If an animal has crossed the road, it may turn and cross again. Animals standing calmly at the side of the road may bolt unexpectedly.

Why do deer swerve in front of the vehicle?

n an attempt to avoid predators, deer run in a twisting or dodging motion. That is why deer may make a sudden swerve right in front of a vehicle – that is how they are “programmed” to respond to a threat.Deer on road

Is wildlife attracted to the road?

Humans know that the road can be a dangerous place, but wildlife may actually be attracted to its wide open spaces. Roadside forage and road salt attracts wildlife. In the winter, ploughed roads offer easier movement. In the summer, increased wind provides relief from biting insects.

Wildlife Bridge

To reduce the risk of collision, Ontario developed the province’s first wildlife overpass. The structure was built as part of the expansion of Highway 69 between Parry Sound and Sudbury, in an area where collisions with large animals, including white-tailed deer, moose, elk and black bears, are common. Fencing along the highway guides the animals towards the overpass. For cost-effectiveness, designers took advantage of existing landscape features. Similar overpasses have been built in Banff National Park, the United States and Europe. There are also plans to install wildlife crossings under Highway 69.

Moose on Highway 
Wildlife Detection System

In 2010, a “break the beam” wildlife detection system was installed on Highway 17 near Sault Ste. Marie. When an animal crosses in front of the beam, a flashing light on the wildlife sign is activated, signaling motorists that animals are nearby. When the lights flash, drivers reduce speed and become more alert to movement along each side of the roadway. The preliminary findings of this new technology are very promising: in the five years preceding installation, there were 11 reported wildlife collisions; however, in the first two years of the system’s installation, there has only been one reported collision.

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