Many areas that wildlife are using as a food source and for cover are taken away during the harvest. This disruption causes animals to travel in search of other cover and food, changing their movements dramatically. In addition, many animals are trying to prepare for the cold winter months ahead, and some become more active because of daylight changes and breeding seasons.
If you’ve driven around almost any town you have probably noticed the increased amount of squirrel activity and the amount of dead fuzzy tails on our city streets.
Squirrels sprint at blinding speeds, make sharp 90-degree cuts, stop on a dime and go in reverse at a moment’s notice, so it’s hard to determine where they are going if you are behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Right now, juvenile squirrels from this summer’s litters are setting out to find and establish their own territory before winter arrives and they attempt countless road crossings in the process. But the sight of their many corpses on the roads is testament to the danger of these crossings, especially to squirrels that haven’t had a chance to figure out how to look both ways before safely crossing the road.
As you drive the streets, give them a break, after all they are just doing what they instinctively do this time of year, which is securing territories and stockpiling food for the winter months and they don’t always notice the traffic they may be headed into.
Because deer are most active during the fall, they pose a greater hazard to both themselves and vehicles traveling highways and country roads, especially during October and November.
Deer will have a lot of things to distract them at this time. With crop and cover areas abruptly changing, daylight hours decreasing and the onset of breeding season or rut, all deer are moving about.
Deer activity peaks each day near dawn and just after dusk.
Here are some tips for avoiding deer-vehicle accidents:
» When driving near shelterbelts, woodlots, creeks or where crops are still standing, especially during evening or early morning hours, reduce your vehicle’s speed and watch carefully for deer. When you spot a deer, assume there will be others in the same area either ahead of or behind the one you’ve seen. Be prepared to stop suddenly.
» Many places where deer are known to travel are posted with deer crossing signs, but the absence of a sign doesn’t mean a deer won’t unexpectedly appear, so keep alert.
» Deer often seem to be disoriented or confused by a vehicle’s headlights. Some react by freezing in the light, some dart into the path of the vehicle, others bolt away in the opposite direction. Sometimes deer that have just crossed the road ahead of the vehicle suddenly change direction and run back into the vehicle’s path or collide with it.
» It’s a good idea to honk your horn and flash your headlights to frighten deer away from the side of the road. If there is other traffic on the road, you can activate your emergency flashers and tap your brakes to alert other drivers to the potential danger.
» Anticipate the possibility of a deer unexpectedly crossing in front of your vehicle and plan ahead to avoid swerving, turning or braking the vehicle too sharply if a deer suddenly appears.
Be Alert skills
Deer and squirrels are not the only animals out and about during dawn and dusk. During the fall season, as it remains darker later into the morning and night falls earlier, raccoons, foxes and skunks will also be out in full force at the same time as we are all traveling to and from work or school.
Scan the road as you drive, watching the edges for wildlife about to cross. Not only will this help you to avoid harming or killing wildlife, but it will also make you more aware of other hazards such as bicyclists, children at play and slowly moving vehicles. Drivers are urged to use the “be alert” skills while driving.
» Be Alert:
Be especially watchful for wildlife at dawn, dusk and in the first few hours after darkness falls. Many species of wildlife are most active at these times.
Edges of roads that border agricultural fields or natural habitats are places to be particularly watchful for wildlife.
Assume that animals do not know to get out of your way. Young animals, in particular, do not recognize cars as a threat.
Lower your dashboard lights slightly. You’ll be more likely to see your headlights reflected in the eyes of animals in time to brake.
Every apple core, french fry and smelly sandwich wrapper tossed out of a car attracts wildlife to roadsides, often with fatal results. Never throw litter from your car.
Remember that where there is one animal crossing, there may be more, young animals following their mother or male animals pursuing a mate.
Try to slow down, especially after dark. Many animals needlessly become victims simply because people drive too fast to avoid hitting them. Speed poses a risk to human safety as well.
Keeping safe during this time is important for all who travel, so be aware and prepared in case an animal darts out in front of you.
Candlelight tour at the Ranch
Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park presents “A Mansion Candlelight Tour.”
Join Buffalo Bill’s wife, Louisa, and her servants on a candlelight tour of the mansion as they share intriguing tales from the past from Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park.
Dates for the candlelight tour are Oct. 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Cost is $5 per person. A park entry permit is required. Tour sizes are limited; spots may be available the day of tours, but are not guaranteed. To reserve your spot, purchase your ticket today by calling the ranch at 308-535-8035.