Snowy weather and increasing darkness mean it’s time to avoid wintertime moose collisions. The build up of snow in the high country forces moose into the lowlands, seeking food. Plowed highways expose to trees and shrubs browsed by moose and cleared highways make it easier for moose to travel. Increasing darkness make these unpredictable animals even harder to see alongside the road.
The impact of an animal that can reach 900 pounds and a passenger vehicle can be catastrophic, both for the moose and passengers alike. Moose are erratic in their movements, often doubling back over the highway they just crossed. They can enter a road unseen from the shoulder or areas of restricted visibility.
In a press release, Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger says, “The majority of our road kills occur during the winter months. Decreased visibility due to lack of daylight, icy roads, and moose movement patterns all contribute to the increased collision rates we see at this time of year.”
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game have some suggestions on how to prevent collisions with moose:
- Reduce speed when visibility along the highway right-of-way is restricted and during poor weather conditions
- Watch for wildlife along the side of the road and scan continuously for animals near or on the highway
- Be extra observant at dusk and dawn. Wildlife often active during these periods and lighting in the transitional period is more difficult
- Increase the distance from vehicles ahead to allow more time a reaction and increased braking distance
- Watch for breaks in the snow along the shoulder where moose have been crossing. Many crossing areas are posted with signs
- Watch for flickering headlights with approaching vehicles, it could be caused by a moose crossing in front of the other car or truck. A brake light in the distance ahead could be someone stopping for a moose
- Cow moose can be accompanied by calves. Once a moose is sighted, be watching for others to cross the highway
- Exercise extreme caution whenever an animal is seen, no matter what it is doing or its distance from the road. Moose can bolt across the highway in an instant, for no apparent reason
Vehicles hit about 680 moose each year in the Matanuska-Susitna Valleys, Municipality of Anchorage and Kenai Peninsula regions. Many Alaskans have hit moose at some point during their driving careers and certainly know someone that has had an encounter. A partnership between the British Columbia Conservation Foundation and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia formed a partnership called the Wildlife Collision Prevention Program. The group has published an excellent brochure on this topic titled Prevent Roadkill – Save Lives that offers useful information on avoiding moose collisions. As they say, slow down and give moose a brake.