If you have ever hit a deer or elk, or even if you have thus far successfully avoided them, you know that there are dire consequences for your vehicle, probably for your insurance rates, and most certainly for the animal. Collisions with deer and elk tend to peak in October and November when migration and breeding put these animals on the move, making them more likely to cross roads. Fawns are still following their mothers, and generally if you see one animal by the roadside there are likely to be more about to cross.
To help stop this unnecessary highway carnage, the nonprofit Oregon Wildlife Foundation is currently selling vouchers for a Watch for Wildlife license plate featuring a mule deer and mountain in the background. The fees from the new license plate will provide grants for projects that benefit fish and wildlife in Oregon. The program is a collaboration of the Oregon Wildlife Foundation, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles.
In order to actually offer the plates, and fund wildlife safety projects, OWF must sell 3,000 vouchers for the purchase of the plates. The voucher covers the extra fee for the new plate, and costs $40. Voucher holders must still pay the regular DMV costs of regular title, registration, and plate fees. Once the plates are available for purchase, each set of plates will provide $31.50 for habitat connectivity and passageway projects, and $35 to fund habitat projects. Vouchers for the plates can be purchased directly through ODF. Visit OWF’s website for more information, https://www.myowf.org/
Between 2007-2017, ODOT documented 12,540 animal-vehicle collisions, including deer and elk. The actual number of collisions is higher, as many are not reported if there is minimal damage or no human injuries. Wildlife crossings and underpasses have proven effective. Two under-crossings near Sunriver have reduced wildlife vehicle collisions by 90% since 2012. To the south, a third undercrossing is under construction north of Gilchrist and more are planned in central Oregon.
ODFW is asking Oregonians to Watch out for Wildlife by being aware of the following:
• The deer breeding season typically lasts from late October to late November, increasing deer activity and the potential for deer to cross roads.
• During the next few months there will be fewer daylight hours and visibility will be challenged by darkness and winter weather conditions.
• Be attentive at all times, especially sunset to sunrise for any potential hazard on or near the highway.
• When driving in areas that have special signs indicating the possible presence of wildlife, please use extra caution. These signs are posted for a reason.
• Be cautious in areas with dense vegetation along the road or while going around curves. Wildlife near the road may not be visible.
• If you see one animal, stay alert for others nearby.
• When wildlife is near or on the roadway, reduce your speed and stay in your lane. Many serious crashes are the result of drivers losing control as they swerve to avoid wildlife.
Highway 97 south of Bend is a hot spot for wildlife vehicle collisions as it runs through a historical deer migration route. ODOT has worked with ODFW, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Oregon Hunters Association and others to build wildlife crossings that allow wildlife to safety cross over or under this busy highway.