Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are cautioning motorists of an unusually high number of collisions between drivers and wildlife on mountain highways this autumn. The increase has been particularly notable on Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 50 in Placer and El Dorado counties.
“There were an unprecedented 23 incidents involving large animals on Highway 50 and I-80 in just six days from Nov. 14-19,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Drivers need to use caution and watch out for wildlife as they travel through the Sierras and other rural areas.”
“Motorists need to be on the lookout for animals on or near roadways, particularly deer and bears,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “It’s not only dangerous for the animals, but drivers and their passengers can be injured or killed if they hit – or swerve to miss – an animal.”
Caltrans and CDFW offer a few tips for motorists:
Be particularly alert when driving in areas frequented by wildlife and give yourself more time than usual to react safely by reducing your speed.
- “Sweep” the roadway from side to side with your eyes as you drive. This increases your chance of seeing anything that might become a hazard.
- Pay particular attention when driving during morning and evening, as wildlife are most active during these times.
- If you see an animal cross the road, know that another may be following it.
- Don’t litter. Odors from all kinds of products may entice animals to venture near roadways.
There are probably several factors behind the animals’ increased movements near highways. One is the deer rut, or mating season, and bucks are always more active this time of year. Recent wildfires in the mountains and foothills also destroyed a considerable amount of vegetation, forcing wildlife to travel farther than usual to forage. The drought has stressed existing vegetation, likely reducing its normal nutritional value and forcing animals to eat more than usual. Bears are getting ready for hibernation and are foraging far and wide to get enough nutrition to make it through the winter.
“Wildlife corridors” constructed under some highways have helped reduce wildlife-related incidents. Caltrans recently completed construction of a wildlife crossing on State Highway 89 in Sierra County and has two others planned for construction next season. The district also built a wildlife crossing on Highway 50 and has a project programmed for next season to study wildlife activity near state highways.
In addition, Caltrans has wildlife warning signs posted in key areas along its state highway system and will be installing more with help from CDFW and other partner agencies. Caltrans will also be using its electronic message boards to alert motorists of increased wildlife activity.
Caltrans District 3 is responsible for maintaining and operating 4,385 lane miles in 11 Sacramento Valley and Northern Sierra counties. CDFW’s North Central Region is responsible for managing California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources across 17 counties.
Please visit the Living with Wildlife web page at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Living-with-Wildlife for more information and to report a wildlife incident or dead or injured wildlife.
Steve Nelson, Caltrans, (530) 741-4566
Dana Michaels, CDFW, (916) 322-2420