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Driving defensively for deer

According to the Oregon State Police, during the last several years, more drivers have reported being involved in traffic crashes with wildlife on Oregon roads during November than any other month of the year.

On Oct. 27, a Hood River County Sheriff patrol car collided with a deer at Cooper Spur Road, near Highway 35 Saturday. Luckily, no injuries resulted but the vehicle sustained damage.

“We get quite a few deer and elk collisions each year,” said HRCSO Public Information Officer Matt English. Sadly, English also reported having to put down animals that have been severely injured and are left along highways after vehicle encounters.

Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Transportation, and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife urge drivers to be aware of the increased potential of wildlife on or along our roads and offer tips when traveling.

According to statistics from ODOT’s Crash Analysis & Reporting Section, more than 5,100 traffic crashes involving wildlife (deer or elk) were reported on Oregon roads from 2007 through 2011.

A five-year ODFW study documented 1,900 deer-vehicle crashes along a 100-mile stretch of Highway 97 and 50-mile stretch of Highway 31 in central Oregon from 2005-2010.

Because many vehicle/animal incidents go unreported, analysts believe the true number is much higher.

ODOT statistics show the number of reported crashes increased each year from 903 (2007) to 1,199 (2011), and 17 crashes resulted in a fatality. The top five months for reported wildlife-involved crashes were:

n November (average 142 crashes)

n October (average 116 crashes)

n August (average 108 crashes)

n July and September (tied average 107.6 crashes)

Recent research released by State Farm Insurance indicates car-deer traffic crashes nationally are the highest in November and are annually rising.

OSP, ODOT and ODFW urge drivers to be aware of the possible dangers associated with animals on or near our highways. Extra vigilance is required. The following information may help reduce animal/vehicle incidents:

n The annual deer rut (breeding) season starts soon, increasing deer activity and increasing the potential for wildlife trying to cross roads.

n During the next few months there will be fewer daylight hours and visibility will be challenged by darkness and winter weather conditions.

n Be attentive at all times, especially sunset to sunrise for any potential hazard on or near the highway.

n When driving in areas that have special signs indicating the possible presence of animals/wildlife use extra caution because these signs are posted for a reason.

n 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.

n Remember that the presence of any type of animal/wildlife could also mean that others are nearby.

n 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.

n Always wear your safety belt; even the slightest collision could result in serious injuries.

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ODOT recently completed construction of two wildlife undercrossings on Highway 97 near Lava Butte in Deschutes County. The passages, aimed at assisting large and small wildlife to safely cross the highway, is already proving to work. Cameras have caught deer, elk and coyote using the new paths and avoiding the highway.

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