Watch Out for Moose in Maine

August 16, 2013

Truckers are used to being on alert for deer when driving, especially in the Spring. But a spate of accidents in Maine involving moose in the recent past has the local media warning drivers through the area to be alert to the animals.

The cluster of central Maine moose accidents recently — including five in Franklin County and one in China — is unusual and probably an aberration, a state biologist told local newspaper the Morning Sentinel.

"I'd expect that in May, June or early July," said Chuck Hulsey, a regional biologist for Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Drivers are warned to take special care when driving in areas where the animals may be present. Because the moose has such long legs and such a heavy body, they are more likely to fly through the windshield when struck. Weighing and average of 1,200 pounds, it can be deadly if they crash through into the cab of a big rig.

"Moose collisions are something that we take very seriously," Rafferty said, warning that drivers should reduce speed in the dark, use high beams if possible and be aware of their surroundings at all time in the wake of the uptick in accidents.

The number of car-moose crashes usually spikes around late April and May and takes a minor dip in August. That's not the case this year. The danger usually increases in September, which appears to be happening earlier this year. In September through the middle of October, moose begin to travel more for mating season and are likely to cross roads because they are more mobile.

The danger usually falls off significantly from the end of October until the following May, according to Rafferty. Then there are more accidents in the springbecause as the weather warms up, the moose tend to gather near roads where there might be vegetation and salt left over from winter road maintenance.

Drivers should be especially careful around dusk and dawn when moose are more active, Lt. David Rackliffe of the Franklin County Sheriff's Department warns.

"They are large, unintelligent animals. If startled by a car they may run into the roadway instead of away from it," he told the Sentinel.

About 550 moose-vehicle crashes are reported annually in Maine. Two people were killed in collisions with moose last year, which is about the average during the last 10 years. No fatalities were reported in 2011 and none have been reported so far this year.

The state moose population is estimated at 76,000.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife offers the following safety tips for driving near moose:

- Be alert around dawn and dusk, when moose are most active.

- Watch the speed limit and avoid distractions — reducing your speed at night significantly improves your safety.

- Use high beams whenever possible.

- Moose tend to travel in groups and if there's one visible, more may be near.

- A vehicle that is going so fast it can't stop within the distance of its headlight visibility may be not be able to stop in time to avoid something beyond that point.

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