If you are driving in the northern U.S. or Canada and see a sign on the road warning that deer and moose are in the area, you should take it very seriously. Hitting deer or moose with your car can cause serious and deadly injury and smash up your vehicle. If you plan to visit a state or province known for its herds of deer or moose, like Maine or Quebec, take the time to learn how to avoid hitting these animals.
Moose and deer are both crepuscular herd animals, meaning they often travel in groups and are most active at dawn and dusk. The two species, however, exhibit different behaviors, and you will need to understand these ahead of any potential encounters. Knowing what to expect will help you react quickly and safely when you see one on the road.
Moose are not only much larger, about five-times heavier, and more aggressive than deer, but their actions are much harder to predict. While deer, once moving, are likely to continue running in one direction, moose are likely to change direction one or more times, doubling back on their tracks and remaining in the road for long periods. Moose need to eat constantly throughout the day, so you may come across one blocking your path at any time of day. However, drivers should be especially cautious during the June mating season when males tend to be more aggressive—a charging moose can be a very frightening thing! Likewise, while baby moose are adorable with their little ears and gangly legs, the mothers are extremely protective and will attack your car if you pose a threat.
How to Avoid Hitting a Moose
Moose are enormous animals and hitting one could kill you; if it doesn't, there's no doubt that colliding with a moose can do serious damage to your car. Because of the moose's skinny legs and a barrel-like torso, its body is likely to fall right on top of your hood and windshield.
While moose are most active at dawn and dusk, they will wander onto roads and highways at all times of the day. At night, they can be hard to spot because of their dark fur and tall stature, so you may not see them until you are very close. A moose can stand as tall as 7 feet, so when checking the road for moose, look higher than you would if you were checking for deer.
Drive slowly when traveling at dawn or dusk in foggy weather. You are more likely to hit a moose if you cannot stop your car quickly. Even on a major highway, you may find a moose standing in the middle of the road as you round a bend, so you will need every available second to stop your car in time.
If you see a moose in the road, stop your car, turn on your hazard lights, blink your headlights, and honk your horn to warn other drivers. Do not swerve to avoid the moose; these creatures are unpredictable and may move right into your new path. Wait for the moose to move out of the road and give it time to walk far away from the shoulder before restarting your vehicle. Drive away slowly in case there are more moose in the area.
Increasing deer populations in North America have contributed to a rise in deer collisions. Deer have been spotted—and struck—on all types of roads, from narrow driveways to wide parkways. Deer travel in groups, so you are unlikely to see a single deer in the road. If you can only see one deer, chances are that there are two or three more in the woods, and if one runs, they all will.
You are most likely to see deer during September, October, and November because autumn is deer mating season. Deer are most active at dawn and dusk, which are, unfortunately, also times when it is most difficult for drivers to spot hazards. It's very unusual to have an aggressive encounter with the deer and when these animals are given the choice of fight or flight, they usually scamper away.
How to Avoid Hitting a Deer
When traveling in a wooded area where you might encounter deer, reduce your distractions, and ask your passengers to help you keep an eye out. Keep your high beams on and if you see a deer in the road, stop. Eventually, it will move away. If it stays still, try flashing your headlights and honking your horn. Once startled, the deer will leave the roadway. Wait a few minutes to see if any other deer cross the road before continuing with extra caution.
If a collision is inevitable, slow down as much as you can and do not swerve around the deer. By swerving, you could flip your car, drive off an embankment, or hit an oncoming vehicle. You might also collide with another deer from the herd. If you have to choose between swerving and hitting the deer, slowing down as much as possible and hitting the deer is the safest choice for everyone in the vehicle.