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Change of seasons makes wildlife wrecks more likely

A mule deer forages near a road. (Courtesy)

Drivers should exercise caution as light fades

KINGMAN - During the fall and winter, the sun sets earlier than it does in the summer and that means more people are on the road after dark - and more animals are at risk of being struck and killed.

With that in mind, the Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds motorists to be cautious when driving through rural areas because animals in or next to roads are more difficult to spot.

"During the summer, most people are driving during daylight," said Zen Mocarski, public information officer for the Game and Fish Region 3 office in Kingman, in an email. "We're now in the time of year when there are a good number of people on the roads at dusk or after dark."

Motorists who slow down and look for movement and eyeshine stand a better chance of avoiding a potentially dangerous incident, said Mocarski.

"Vehicle collisions are the No. 1 killer of vertebrate animals in the nation," said Mocarski. "It's also potentially dangerous for humans. Pay attention to road signs that indicate wildlife may be present."

Millions of vertebrates -  birds, mammals and amphibians - are killed every year by vehicles traveling on the roughly 4 million miles of roads in the U.S., according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Slow-moving animals are at high risk, but even an animal as fast as the federally protected ocelot is vulnerable.

According to the Highway Administration, roadkill has played a role in reducing the cat population to about 80.

Every year, about 200 drivers or their passengers are killed in incidents of cars hitting animals and thousands more are injured, according to the Highway Administration.

There are financial consequences, as well. The average cost to repair an automobile damaged after striking a deer is $2,000, according to the Highway Administration.

Mocarski said deer enter the rut at the end of November and that deer behave unpredictably until the rut ends in late January.

"During the rut, you just don't know what a buck will do," he said. "They may dart straight out in the road.

"And, it's important to remember that if you pass one deer, it is possible there are more nearby."

Mocarski said passing a deer provides a good reason to slow down.

In fact, driving a little slower at dusk - and activating headlights - can help Arizona drivers avoid animals.

"Roads cut through wildlife habitat across the state," said Mocarski. "Any animal that occurs in a region can certainly find its way onto a roadway, and if a motorist isn't paying attention, there could be consequences."


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