The California Department of Transportation will observe the third week in September as “Watch Out for Wildlife Awareness Week,” which strives to reduce the number of wildlife-related injuries and vehicle passenger fatalities on the state’s highways.
The campaign attempts to enhance the efforts of government agencies, universities, and nonprofit organizations that establish safe highway passage for wildlife in California.
The Defenders of Wildlife, a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting native animals and plants, estimates that 1.5 million animals are hit on the nation’s roadways each year. In addition, more than 200 people are killed in collisions with deer, elk and other wildlife. Wildlife-vehicle collisions cause $1 billion in property damage.
“California’s unique natural and cultural heritage is worth protecting,” said Acting Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “This natural landscape not only provides habitat to spectacular wildlife, it is also a boon to the state’s economy. Caltrans encourages you to join with us in protecting wildlife, as well as motorists, during Watch Out for Wildlife Awareness Week.”
The campaign is sponsored by Caltrans, the California Department of Fish and Game, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis. Caltrans believes the awareness week will assist in planning for the conservation of natural resources while providing safe and effective transportation.
Other states such as Kentucky, Illinois, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wisconsin have also adopted similar initiatives.
Caltrans and Defenders of Wildlife offer a few tips for motorists in wildlife country:
· Be particularly alert when driving in wildlife areas.
· If you see an animal cross the road, know that another may be following.
· Don’t litter. It could entice animals to venture onto the road.
For more information on Watch Out for Wildlife, along with additional tips on avoiding collisions with wild animals, go to www.watchoutforwildlife.org.
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