World Wildlife Day is March 3rd. It’s a day to celebrate and raise awareness of the many wild animals and plants in the world. As drivers, we must take special care not to harm wildlife that may find its way onto the roadways. As we move closer to the Spring season, you’re likely to encounter wildlife families on the go. Let’s look at some ways to safely interact with wildlife on the roadways.
In the spring, deer are out and ready to find lots of food! Does will be giving birth to sweet fawns and will need to eat enough to take care of their babies! If you see deer grazing along the roadside, move closer to the center of the lane, if possible, to give them some space. Deer travel in groups, so when you see one, chances are there are more nearby. When startled, a deer will run, and the others will follow suit.
In areas where deer are prevalent, reduce your speed and give yourself ample time to brake if a deer should enter the roadway. You shouldn’t swerve at the last second to avoid hitting a deer. Brake and hit the deer if you have to. You’re far less likely to be injured by hitting a deer directly than by swerving off the road or into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting one.
In the unfortunate case that you do collide with a deer, move your vehicle to a safe place if possible. Pull to the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights. Call the local police. If the deer is still alive, don’t approach it yourself; wounded deer are unpredictable and can be dangerous. Let the officer who arrives on the scene take care of the next steps.
Another form of wildlife you may find in your path of travel are turtles. Turtles are super active in the late spring and early summer as the weather warms up. Turtles typically do not cause as much damage to your vehicle as a large animal would in the case of a collision, but vehicles can cause a ton of damage to a turtle.
If you’re in a safe location where you can pull over without impeding traffic or putting yourself and others in danger, you may be able to help turtles safely cross the street. Pull over in a safe location and watch closely for traffic. If you’re on a highway or other busy road, it’s probably not safe for you to exit your vehicle.
You should never transport a turtle to another location. Turtles know where they want to go, and your job is simply to help them keep moving in the direction they’re already headed. If you grab a turtle from the middle of the road and put it back on the side where it came from, it’s just going to attempt to cross the road again.
Small aquatic turtles and box turtles are usually easy to pick up. You can grasp them on both sides of their body, right in front of their hind legs, with a firm enough grip that you’re sure not to drop them. Cross the road with them and place them gently back on the ground so they can continue their journey safely.
Snapping turtles, on the other hand, have earned their name and can bite when approached. They have long necks and are usually pretty large! Never attempt to pick up a snapping turtle by its tail, as this can cause severe damage to the turtle. You also want to avoid picking them up on their sides like you would a small turtle, as their necks are long enough that they can reach back and bite you when given the chance! Instead, you can grab the snapping turtle by the back of the shell, above its tail. If the snapping turtle is small enough for you to pick up, you can carry it across the road.
For a large snapping turtle, you may have to lift it up by the back of the shell and gently drag it across the road, being sure to keep it heading in the same direction as it was originally facing. If you have a blanket in your vehicle, you can lift the snapping turtle up by the back of its shell and onto the blanket, and then drag the blanket across the roadway. Just remember that you must keep the turtle facing the same direction as it was facing when you found it.
If you’re uncomfortable with approaching a snapping turtle, that is completely understandable! Call your local wildlife facility or local police department and let them know the turtle is obstructing traffic and needs some help crossing the road.
This spring, keep a sharp eye out for wildlife on the move. Slow down, be alert, and help protect wildlife as much as possible while making sure you’re staying safe.
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