So far this month, a bear cub, a fawn, and a doe have been killed on Highway 198, all in a two-mile stretch between Three Rivers Mercantile and Sierra Lodge. Add to these wild animals on the move an escalation of speeding motorists that are passing vehicles in the business district, ignoring the double yellow lines that make such maneuvers illegal and collisions with wildlife are certain to occur in Three Rivers.
Because this is a statewide issue, Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife remind motorists to be on the lookout during Watch Out for Wildlife Week, which is being observed from Sunday, Sept. 16, to Saturday, Sept 22.
“With every project we build, we look for innovative ways to protect drivers and wildlife,” said Caltrans Director Laurie Berman. “That can be as simple as installing flashing warning signs or putting in specialized fencing and crossings to provide wildlife with safe passages. Drivers can make a difference too, just by staying alert.”
In Three Rivers, “deer crossing” signs have been in place along the highway for many decades. Added last year were “bear crossing” signs due to an increase of bear fatalities in recent years as a result of being hit by vehicles.
Watch Out for Wildlife Week coincides with the season when California’s deer migrate and look for mates, and California’s roadways often cut through these animals’ migration routes. It’s vital that drivers be especially alert now through December to avoid collisions with wildlife.
These crashes not only harm wildlife, but collisions with large animals can damage vehicles and cause injury and death to drivers and passengers.
“In the fall, wildlife exhibit natural behaviors that can lead them to more unpredictable movements and nearer to humans and roadways,” said Vicky Monroe, CDFW Statewide Conflict Programs Coordinator. “Deer, bears, and other wildlife are most likely to be killed or injured by vehicle collisions between September and December. Bucks fight for mates during breeding season, does travel more with their fawns, and many deer herds migrate to their winter ranges. Black bears travel farther for food as they enter a period of excessive eating and drinking to fatten up for hibernation.”
In 2017, according to the California Highway Patrol, 12 people died and 383 people were injured in 2,134 collisions with wildlife on state, county, and local roadways throughout the state.
Wildlife experts offer the following tips for motorists:
—Be extra alert when driving near areas wildlife frequent, such as streams and rivers, and reduce your speed so you can react safely.
—Pay extra attention driving during the morning and evening (especially at dawn and dusk)when wildlife are often most active.
—If you see an animal on or near the road, know that another may be following.
—Don’t litter. Trash odors can attract animals to roadways.
—Pay attention to road shoulders. Look for movement or reflecting eyes. Slow down and honk your horn if you see an animal on or near the road.
This week, a deceased doe has been decomposing on Highway 198 at the North Fork Drive intersection. The deer was hit and killed sometime Monday night or early Tuesday morning. Damage occurred to the front of the offending vehicle. Drive defensively and slow down to avoid these gruesome collisions.
The Watch Out for Wildlife campaign is supported by Caltrans, CDFW, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis.