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‘One after another’: Auto repair shops, SGI see increase in wildlife collision claims

Sask. auto repair shops, SGI see increase in wildlife collision claims
WATCH ABOVE: Wildlife experts say deer populations are healthy in Saskatchewan, adding the animals are attracted to road salt on or near highways.

Even a semi-truck is no match for a moose. After a recent run-in with the large animal, a semi came into Frame & Wheel Alignment in Regina with an initial damage estimate of $50,000.

“This year, as well as last year, just seems we have a multitude of wildlife hits. Semis on the road hitting deer, hitting moose, whatever is out there – it’s one after another,” said general manager Steve Karsh, who has worked in heavy auto repair for 30 years.

READ MORE: Drivers need to adjust for winter road conditions: SGI

“You’re either replacing fenders, replacing hoods. You’re replacing bumpers, like the big moose bumpers – they’ll hit that, and they can cause damage.”

Wildlife collision numbers from SGI show an increase in all wildlife collision claims between Nov. 1 and Jan. 9 each of the last four years.

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Deer collisions are the most common claim, increasing by 376 in the same period this year over last.

SGI wildlife collision claims for the period between Nov. 1 to Jan. 9 over four years. SGI noted some claims for the most recent period may not be reported as of Jan. 10, 2020.
SGI wildlife collision claims for the period between Nov. 1 to Jan. 9 over four years. SGI noted some claims for the most recent period may not be reported as of Jan. 10, 2020. SGI

Prince Albert conservation officer Kevin Harrison is routinely called to attend animals injured or killed on Saskatchewan highways.

“The main thing is to be vigilant on the highway,” he said. “These animals can come out of nowhere, quickly, so its best just to keep your eyes on the road and peeled for wildlife.”

The front end of a semi that collided with a moose. Karsh says the initial damage estimate is around $50,000.
The front end of a semi that collided with a moose. Karsh says the initial damage estimate is around $50,000. Derek Putz / Global News

Deer may be more spotted feeding more as temperatures cool further in Saskatchewan, with wildlife also being drawn to road salt collected on and around roadways.

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“They need that in their diet, so they find some salt in the road and they come and they lick it off,” Harrison said.

Deer population healthy

While deer may be more active in cold weather, their numbers are increasing at an appropriate rate in Saskatchewan.

Darrell Crabbe, executive director of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, said the growth comes after harsh winters in 2013 and 2014 decimated deer populations in the province.

“The winter conditions really are mother nature’s major control system for the populations, but right now we’re at what many biologists would consider to be the 10-year average,” said Crabbe.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan drivers beware: wildlife on the move during harvest season

He noted that a mild winter would create another year of “healthy recruitment,” which is how many fawns or calves are produced in the spring.

Crabbe said moose numbers in Saskatchewan are hard to pin down, as populations of “farmland moose” have developed over the last 20 years.

“It’s actually speculated that there’s as many moose south of the forest fringe now, as there is north of the forest fringe,” he said.

SGI data for wildlife collisions show increases for the period between Nov. 1 to Jan. 9 each of the last four years
SGI data for wildlife collisions show increases for the period between Nov. 1 to Jan. 9 each of the last four years Global News

How to handle an animal encounter on the road

According to SGI, the peak times for wildlife collisions are dawn and dusk.

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The provincial insurer recommends the following if an animal is encountered on the road:

  • Remain calm if an animal appears on the road. If there’s time to stop, do so at a safe distance and stay alert. When one animal crosses the road, others often follow;
  • Sound the horn to scare wildlife away from the road;
  • If an animal appears suddenly, remember to brake firmly and stay in control of the vehicle. Avoid swerving as it may lead into oncoming traffic or roll into the ditch.

READ MORE: Collisions with elk renew calls for wildlife fencing near Canmore

In cases where the collision is unavoidable, SGI recommends the following:

  • Aim the vehicle at the spot where the animal came from, not where it’s going;
  • Try for a glancing blow rather than a head-on encounter and let up on the brake just before the collision. This causes the front of the vehicle to rise slightly and reduces the chances of the animal going through the windshield;
  • Hitting an animal can be an extremely traumatic experience. If possible, move to the shoulder and turn on hazard lights. Take a moment to regain composure and then assess the damage to the vehicle;
  • Do not approach the animal, especially if it appears to be wounded. Injured animals can be extremely dangerous;
  • Call the police or local RCMP detachment if there are human injuries or significant damage to the vehicle. If the damage is less severe, it’s possible to continue driving and follow regular SGI claims reporting procedures.
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