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Elk run along the shoulder of state Highway 75 south of Ketchum.

With big game animals on the move for mating and migration, wildlife-vehicle collisions tend to peak this time of year, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is urging drivers to slow down and be extra careful. 

According to the department, the deer mating season occurs in November, and they tend to be active all day and become inattentive at times. And with increased snow in the higher elevations, Idaho’s big-game herds are migrating to lower-elevation winter ranges, crossing many highways and roads.

“While you can’t predict when wildlife will cross the road, being extra alert, slowing down and avoiding driving under low-light conditions if possible is your best defense,” said Greg Painter, a Fish and Game wildlife manager based in Salmon.

Collisions between vehicles and wildlife are not only dangerous, they are expensive. Hitting a deer or an elk often results in thousands of dollars in vehicle damage, not to mention a preventable loss of wildlife.

To help reduce chances of an animal collision, the department urges drivers to:

Slow down.

Buckle up. This won’t prevent a collision, but it can save your life depending upon the severity of the accident.

Scan ahead. Watch for movement, especially near the fog line and side of the road. When driving at night, watch for shining eyes in headlights.

Be extra cautious around dawn and dusk, when big-game animals are especially active.

If you see one animal cross the road, slow down immediately and expect others to follow.

Brake, don’t swerve. The most serious crashes occur when drivers lose control of their vehicles trying to avoid an animal. It is usually safer to strike the animal than another object such as a tree or another vehicle.

Pay extra attention in areas posted with wildlife-crossing signs. They are there for good reason.

Use high beams to help you spot wildlife, but be considerate of other drivers when using them.

Don’t tailgate. If a driver in front of you brakes suddenly for an animal in the road, you won’t be able to react in enough time.

Of course, some accidents are unavoidable. Motorists should report any injury collision to the public safety dispatcher by calling 911, which will send officers to the scene. If possible, move your vehicle to a safe place and alert traffic with your emergency flashers until law enforcement authorities arrive.

Drivers who come across a dead animal on the side of the road are encouraged to report the roadkill on Fish and Game’s website. The information collected on wildlife collisions helps identify high-risk areas and possible solutions to make highways safer.

Those who want to may recover and keep certain game animals killed by accidental auto collisions. You have 24 hours to notify Fish and Game if you salvage an animal, and 72 hours to obtain a salvage permit. For more information regarding both the roadkill and salvage rules, including reporting requirements and a list of species legal to salvage, refer to idfg.idaho.gov/species/roadkill or contact your nearest Idaho Fish and Game office.

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