How to prevent collisions with wildlife
Colorado has seen an average of 3,300 reported wildlife collisions on the road each year for the past decade, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Of those, 2,661 resulted in human injury and 33 killed people.
Colorado’s wildlife viewing opportunities rival those of any other state, but they come with a cost. Drivers must be aware of what is out there, especially on the Western Slope.
According to CDOT, this area puts drivers at particularly high risk for wildlife encounters. That proved true and particularly tragic Sept. 29, when an SUV carrying a family of seven struck a 300-pound bear on Interstate 70 near Rifle, killing two girls and their grandfather.
“Although animals can cross the roadway anywhere at any time, there are high-risk areas, seasons and times that travelers should be well aware of,” CDOT said in its video “Wildlife on the Move.”
The highest risk for wildlife encounters comes in the fall. CDOT states that the most dangerous time to travel is from mid-September to October, and risk spikes again in spring due to migration patterns.
“Dawn and dusk are the most important times of day to be vigilant about wildlife, as animal movement is high and visibility is low,” Colorado State Patrol Trooper Joshua Lewis said in a CDOT video. “Eliminate all distractions from around you, reduce the intensity of dashboard lighting and always drive within the comfort of your head lamps.”
“Remember, if you see one animal, there’s more likely others behind it. Look for signs such as eye shine or signals on the highway,” he said. “These tips are not just for new or unfamiliar drivers, but for experienced drivers that may become complacent in their normal routine. If you do have an animal encounter remember to brake, look and steer.”
In 2016, CDOT Region 3, which covers most of northwest Colorado and includes Garfield County, saw 2,086 animals killed on the road. That was the most of any of the five regions, according to CDOT data. The region has seen an increase in road kill each year since 2013. Six bears were killed in Region 3 in 2016.