Wildlife and Roads
Living with wildlife
Mother deer with fawn
Roads are a potential threat for wildlife for a number of reasons. Because roads are surrounded by diverse habitats (short grass by the road, then taller grass and shrubs, and then trees--also called the edge effect), there are a lot of different wildlife species along them. From the mice and other rodents that feed on the vegetation, to the predators such as foxes and birds of prey that hunt the rodents, to the scavengers such as opossums and turkey vultures that clean up the remains of road-killed animals, the density of animals increases the odds of their being hit by cars.
Many animals, especially deer, also use roads as travel corridors or frequently cross roads as they move within their habitat ranges. With the inevitable increase in development and human population densities, the odds of encountering an animal crossing a road will increase.
Deer occupy historic ranges, and use established routes within these ranges. Where these trails cross roads there is a concentration of deer. Deer crossing signs are there for a reason. They mark the areas where these trails cross the roads. When you see these signs, please slow down and alert yourself to the possibility of deer close by.
For the wildlife rehabilitator, deer that are hit by cars are the worst kind of nightmare. Besides frequently having massive injuries, they simply do not do well in captivity and do not respond well to treatment. Invariably, they die due to the cumulative stress of their injuries and of being handled by people who are, after all, just another predator to them. For those of us who have dedicated our lives to helping injured animals, this is a very frustrating situation.
Sometimes you may not be able to avoid colliding with a wild animal, especially at night when they seem to appear out of nowhere. But by being aware of the potential for collisions, slowing down, watching for signs, and paying attention as you drive through these areas, you can prevent injuries to many wild animals (and humans, too).
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