Motorist Alert: Moose-Auto Collisions Spike in Winter
Motorists Beware: Darkness, Accumulating Snows Increase Moose-Automobile Collision Risks
(Anchorage) – Drivers, look out! Accumulating snows are pushing moose down from high-country haunts into lowland areas and – in some cases – right into oncoming traffic.
Hundreds of moose are struck and killed by motorists each year on Southcentral Alaska roadways, with most road kills occurring during the dark, snowy months of December, January and February. Cleared roadways offer easy walking when drifts grow deep, and young trees and shrubs growing along highway margins can attract hungry moose.
“The majority of our road kills occur during the winter months,” says Kenai area wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger. “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 combination can be deadly for moose and motorists alike. Drivers are sometimes injured and even killed when vehicles traveling at normal highway speeds collide with the animals which may weigh between 500 and 900 pounds.
Moose movements around roadways are unpredictable; animals can dart suddenly across lanes, cross and double back, or appear seemingly from out of nowhere. To help prevent collisions with moose, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game suggests drivers practice the following safe winter driving habits:
- Reduce your driving speed on highways and when visibility on the sides of the road is restricted.
- Deliberately and continuously scan for wildlife on both sides of the road and along road corridors and medians.
- Increase the distance between you and the car in front of you to allow for greater braking distances and reaction time.
- Watch for signs marking known moose crossing areas and be especially alert for a few miles before and beyond those areas.
- Watch for flickering in the headlights of oncoming traffic that may be caused by an animal crossing in front of that vehicle.
- Cow moose crossing or standing near roads are often accompanied by calves, so reduce speed when moose are spotted and look for additional animals that may be crossing behind the first.
An average of 150 moose are struck and killed by automobiles each year in the Municipality of Anchorage, which encompasses roads from roughly Girdwood to the Old Glenn Highway exit east of Eklutna. Another 280 moose are struck and killed by motorists each year on roads in the Matanuska and Susitna Valleys; during winters of unusually deep snow that number can double as moose tend to congregate around highway corridors. On the Kenai Peninsula, moose-vehicle collisions average around 250 annually.