Police warn motorists to be on the lookout for wildlife

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By now the Ontario Provincial Police refrain should come naturally, “Don’t veer for deer.”

But you might want to memorize “don’t sway for birds of prey” to stay safe on area highways.

Because along with the thousands of so-called “deer-related” collisions police respond to annually, there are usually a handful of crashes involving — of all things — turkey vultures, police said.

“They fly low to catch their prey, and they can cause major damage,” Western Region OPP Sgt. Dave Rektor said. “They’ve been known to take out front grilles, break or smash windshields and (they) do cause significant damage,” he said.

At about five or six a year, turkey vulture crashes only represent a sliver of wildlife-related incidents on area highways. Deer are definitely ahead of the pack in that department, being involved in about 14,000 crashes every year, Rektor said.

This year is no different. In recent months, OPP detachments across Ontario have issued newsletters, urging motorists to drive slow, pay attention to their surroundings and look out for deer.

In Huron County last week there were 24 deer-related crashes, and Perth County OPP dealt with 10 during one 24-hour period, OPP said. The incidents reported include crashes in which drivers swerve to avoid the animals and end up smashing into a ditch, tree or another vehicle.

Such crashes often injure the occupants of a vehicle and sometimes kill them.

“It’s a huge issue. As soon as (farmers) start taking crops off the fields, we notice a number of animals,” Rektor said.

And, no matter what type of animal you find in your headlights, the lesson is always the same, he said.

Slow down and don’t veer. Not for deer, and not for any other wildlife.

jennifer.obrien@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/obrienatlfpress

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Turkey Vultures, through the eyes of an OPP officer:

Sometimes they look like dogs in a group from a distance.  They can weigh up to six pounds . . .  Their wingspan can reach about (two metres).  Motorists can see them on the side of the road eating dead roadkill.  When the birds are startled, or they are coming in for a landing near the roadway, they often come into contact with the vehicles.

Sgt. David Rektor

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