Alberta wildlife collision statistics

13 minute read Published on Feb 19, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

Scenic shores of Abraham Lake - Red deer grazing by the side of the road.

Wildlife-vehicle collisions are a pressing concern in Alberta, posing risks to both animal populations and human safety. In the vast and varied terrains of Alberta, from the rocky expanses of the Canadian Rockies to the open prairies, these incidents are more than just statistics—they are stories of shared habitats and the intersections of human and animal lives.

Wildlife versus motor vehicles in Alberta

Did you know that around half of all rural highway accidents reported in the province of Alberta are due to encounters with wildlife? Sadly, it’s true. In fact, animal-vehicle collisions on Alberta’s highways result in the average deaths of six people and cause serious injuries in around 320 traffic accidents annually.

This is because Alberta’s roads are a hotspot for animal collisions, presenting a unique challenge where animal ecosystems intersect with human transportation networks. The province, with its abundant wildlife and expansive transportation system, experiences a high volume of wildlife-vehicle collisions annually. This interaction often leads to significant consequences for both wildlife and motorists.

As humans encroach on natural habitats, wild animals like deer, elk, moose, and bears are forced to navigate the dangerous terrain of highways and roads in search of food, mates, or territory, leading to an increased risk of collision. The aftermath of these incidents can be grave: animals may be killed or severely injured, and human passengers face potential injury and even fatality, not to mention the economic impact that includes vehicle repair costs and Alberta car insurance claims.

The dynamics of wildlife-vehicle collision

Understanding the dynamics of animal-vehicle collisions in Alberta, including driver behaviour, environmental conditions and animal behaviour, requires a comprehensive analysis of various contributing factors. Let’s break these down:

Driver behaviour

Driver behaviour plays a critical role. Speeding increases the likelihood and severity of collisions with wildlife, as it reduces a driver’s ability to stop in time upon encountering an animal on the road. Additionally, drivers’ attention to the road can significantly mitigate collision risks; distractions can delay reaction times to the sudden appearance of animals.

Environmental condition

Environmental conditions are also significant factors. Darkness impairs visibility, making it harder for drivers to spot animals in time to avoid them. The risk is further exacerbated by slippery road conditions, which are common in colder months or during adverse weather, leading to longer stopping distances and reduced vehicle control.

Animal behaviour

Animal behaviour is another critical aspect. Migration patterns dictate where and when animals are more likely to cross roadways. For example, during seasonal migrations, herds of elk or deer may frequently cross roads, increasing the probability of collisions. Mating season is particularly risky, as animals are more active and less wary of dangers, including roads. Furthermore, roadside features that attract animals, such as salt used for de-icing or lush vegetation, can create collision hotspots.

To mitigate these risks, it’s essential for drivers in Alberta to create strategies that address each of these factors. For instance, lowering speed limits in high-risk areas, improving road lighting, and maintaining clear visibility on roadsides can help reduce the risk of late-night encounters.

Seasonal variations in collision rate

In Alberta, every month, there are more than a thousand wild animal-related accidents on rural roads, with incidents involving animals like moose, deer, or foxes occurring year-round. However, wildlife collisions are most common during two peak periods: the spring and the fall. These seasons correspond to high animal activity periods. Wildlife is most likely to be near the road during these times due to the plentiful vegetation nearby, the allure of road salt, mating behaviours, and their need to cross these paths during migration.

In spring, as the snow melts and food becomes more abundant, animals move around more after winter, often crossing roads and highways. This activity increases the risk of collisions with vehicles. Bears come out of hibernation, deer and elk are on the move to find fresh grazing, and many species enter their breeding season, leading to increased movement and activity.

The fall is another critical time for wildlife collisions. During the fall months, days get shorter, and dusk occurs during peak traffic times, which reduces visibility for drivers. Additionally, this season coincides with the rut for many species, such as deer and elk, making them more mobile and less cautious as they travel to find mates. Animal-vehicle collision more than double during the month of November as these wild animals look for mates. Migration to winter feeding grounds also contributes to higher animal traffic across roadways.

While spring and fall are the most common periods, that doesn’t mean you won’t see animal-related accidents in the winter or summer. In fact, during the winter, wildlife is attracted to the salt spread to prevent drivers from driving on icy road. Various animal species, like deer, seek out this salt to supplement their mineral intake. As for summer road hazard, the warmer weather can lead animals to the open road for the fresh gusts of wind to help them cool down.

Alberta has made efforts to curb these collisions, especially during peak seasonal times, including public awareness campaigns about peak collision times, increased signage in high-risk areas, and the use of wildlife detection systems and crossing structures. However, the responsibility also falls on drivers to remain vigilant, reduce speed, and pay extra attention during dawn, dusk, and night driving when wildlife is most active.

Preventative measures and mitigation strategie

Alberta has taken many steps to mitigate these collisions, employing measures like wildlife underpasses and overpasses, fencing, and detection systems. Let’s explore these further:


The province has invested in infrastructure designed to allow wildlife to traverse busy roads safely. This includes the construction of wildlife underpasses and overpasses, which are essentially tunnels and bridges for animals to use, thus avoiding traffic altogether. These structures are often used in conjunction with fencing that funnels animals toward these safe crossing points, significantly reducing the likelihood of animals entering onto the roadway.

Wildlife detection system

Another important measure is the implementation of wildlife warning systems. These systems use sensors to detect large animals like deer and moose when they are close to the road and activate warning signs that alert drivers to the potential danger. This real-time information enables drivers to slow down and proceed with caution, thus preventing potential collisions.

Innovative road design

Roadway design now takes into account the need to prevent wild animal collisions. Measures include strategically placing escape ramps for animals, clearing roadside vegetation to improve visibility, and designing roads to deter animals from crossing at dangerous points.

Also, improved visibility on roads with better lighting and using reflective materials on signage and road markings have been simple yet effective methods to prevent collisions, especially during low-light conditions when animals are more active, such as early morning, evenings, and at night.

Mitigation strategie

Despite the effectiveness of the above measures, Alberta recognizes that continual improvement is necessary. Through the collection and analysis of collision data and the help of GPS tracking of wildlife, the province can identify high-risk areas and times for wildlife encounters and adjust or enhance mitigation strategies accordingly. For example, if certain underpasses or overpasses are underutilized by wildlife, research can be conducted to understand why and to make necessary adjustments.

Statistical analysis also plays a role in public awareness campaigns. By publicizing data on collisions, the government can highlight the importance of driver vigilance and adherence to speed limits, especially in marked wildlife areas. Education efforts can also inform the public about the behaviour of wildlife during different times of the year, which can help in anticipating possible animal crossings.

Furthermore, mobile applications and social media can be utilized to disseminate real-time information about wildlife hazards on roads by sending instant alerts to drivers in the vicinity of reported wildlife sightings.

These combined efforts reflect Alberta’s commitment to reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions. By improving existing measures and implementing new technologies and educational strategies, Alberta continues to protect its diverse wildlife populations and enhance safety for all motorists on its roads.

Alberta Wildlife Watch

Alberta Wildlife Watch is a program focused on gathering and analyzing data concerning animal-vehicle collisions across Alberta. The program’s objectives include:

  • Reducing the number of animal-vehicle collisions on provincial highway
  • Enhancing driver safety
  • Lessening the adverse effects of roadways on wildlife populations.

It identifies locations prone to animal-vehicle collisions, providing quality data to aid in effective decision-making for mitigation strategies​​​.

These efforts by the Alberta Wildlife Watch are part of a broader initiative to improve road safety for both wildlife and drivers. By doing so, the program helps evaluate the effectiveness of various mitigation activities and strategies already in place.

The Alberta Wildlife Watch program exemplifies Alberta’s commitment to proactive wildlife management and traffic safety. By addressing animal-vehicle collisions comprehensively, the program aims not only to protect wildlife but also to inform and protect those who travel Alberta’s roads.

How to react safely when confronted with wildlife while driving

If you suddenly come across a wild animal while driving, it’s important to fight the instinct to swerve, as it can lead to more hazardous outcomes, such as crashing into oncoming traffic or stationary objects like trees or streetlights:

Small wildlife

For smaller animals, we recommend decelerating by lifting your foot from the accelerator and steering straight ahead. As much as we know you’d like to avoid hitting a wild animal, chances are the damage from a collision with a smaller animal is often less severe than the potential damage from veering off the road.

Large wildlife

For larger animals like deer or moose, it’s best to avoid a collision when possible. Utilizing your horn by honking in a series of short bursts or flashing your high beams repeatedly may deter a deer. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep to the road and hold the steering wheel firmly. While no one wishes to hit a moose or deer, there are circumstances where it may be safer than swerving, which risks a collision with other vehicles or stationary objects that may result in injuries to yourself and your passengers.

If a wildlife collision is inevitable

If a collision with a large animal is inevitable, here’s what you should do. Brake firmly and hold onto the steering wheel to maintain control. Just before the collision, release the brake. This will cause the nose of your vehicle to tip upward and help prevent the animal from crashing into your windshield. Also, aim to “graze” rather than collide head-on, such as turning slightly to aim for the rear of the animal, which may reduce the impact force and result in less vehicle damage and injuries.

First, if there are injuries to anyone in the car, dial 9-1-1. Then, report the collision to the RCMP or local police. If you can, move your car to the side of the roadway and turn on your hazard lights. If you can’t move your vehicle, turn on your hazard lights and, if it’s safe to do so, set up pylons or road flares to warn other drivers. Before you move your vehicle, consider taking pictures of the scene for your car insurance claim.

Call the nearest Fish and Wildlife area office if the animal is injured but still conscious and alert. Do not approach the animal as an injured animal may be confused and dangerous. To report and remove a dead animal from the road in Alberta, call 310-0000.

Once you are safe, contact your insurance company about the collision. This is where knowing your collision insurance policy beforehand for animal-vehicle-related collisions and roadside emergencie can be beneficial.

Road safety tips to help you avoid animal-vehicle collision

Here are some road safety tips to help you avoid animal-vehicle collisions:

Observe speed limit

Obeying speed limits is crucial, particularly in areas with high wildlife populations. Keeping a safe following distance and adhering to posted speed limits gives you more time to react if an animal crosses your path or the vehicle in front of you.

Use your high beams when possible

Make sure to keep your headlights clean and clear. Your high beams can illuminate the road further ahead and the sides, where wildlife may be lurking. Switch to low beams when you see oncoming vehicles to avoid blinding other drivers.

Keep your windshield clean

Ensure your vehicle’s windows and headlights are clean and free of obstructions to maximize visibility, especially for spotting wildlife blending into the surroundings.

Look for eye shine

The glowing eyes of animals can often be seen as they reflect car headlights. These reflections can often be seen from a distance and alert you to their presence before seeing the whole animal.

Heed traffic sign

Wildlife crossing signs are warning signs for motorists. Yellow wildlife warning signs indicate zones where animals are known to cross. Slow down and be ready to stop if needed when you see these signs.

Be extra vigilant during peak activity hour

Wildlife is most active at dawn and dusk when visibility is lower. During these times, animals are foraging or moving to and from their resting areas. Increase your alertness during these hours, and reduce your speed to give yourself more time to respond to unexpected wildlife.

Watch for signs of wildlife

While driving, actively scan the road and its edges for any signs of movement or animals, especially during peak times. Often, even small movements on the side of the road can help you notice animals before they enter the roadway. Regularly scanning your surroundings, not just the road ahead, can help you detect animals early and take preventative action.

Stay in control

If an animal appears, brake firmly while holding onto the steering wheel with both hands. Swerving may lead to loss of vehicle control or cause an accident with another vehicle.

Consider your positioning on the road

On highways, drive in the center lane when available to provide a buffer zone. This gives you a better chance of avoiding wildlife that may enter the road from ditches or forests.

Be aware of group behaviour

Species like deer often move in groups. If you see one, slow down and look for more, as they usually cross roads in single file. This means the chances are high that if one deer just crossed the road, another is close behind.

Be extra cautious in wooded and water-rich area

Vegetation is frequently more abundant along road edges because runoff from the pavement supplies additional water. This greenery draws in plant-eating animals and, subsequently, their predators. Moreover, the ditches, culverts, and sizable pothole that line roadways often collect water or runoff, serving as convenient watering holes for wildlife. Therefore, if you are driving in wooded or water-rich areas, you’ll need to be extra vigilant.

Don’t rely on car-mounted whistle

Devices like ultrasonic whistles attached to the car are marketed to deter wildlife, but their effectiveness is dubious. Don’t depend on them as a substitute for cautious driving.

Don’t litter

Food garbage will likely attract animals to the roadside. Don’t throw any garbage or food waste out of your car window. Keep it until you arrive at your destination or next pit stop, and dispose of it properly.

Remember collision protocol

If a collision seems unavoidable, it’s safer to hit the animal than swerve to avoid it and potentially cause a more dangerous crash. Brake firmly and maintain control of the wheel. If hitting a larger animal is inevitable, aim to graze rather than collide head-on.

Remember, staying calm and prepared for wildlife encounters can significantly reduce both the number and severity of these collisions. By practicing these safety tips, drivers can contribute to a safer coexistence with the wildlife that shares our environment.

Don’t forget your car insurance from BrokerLink

The statistics on wildlife collisions in Alberta not only shed light on a significant road safety issue but also highlight the importance of being well-covered by car insurance. At BrokerLink, we offer a comprehensive range of auto insurance option tailored to the unique needs of Alberta’s drivers, including coverage for various types of driving and vehicles. Maybe you’re wondering about more adventurous driving, such as off-roading coverage? Contact us today to consult with a licensed insurance broker to help you understand the extent of your coverage.

The clash between wildlife and motor vehicles is a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between Alberta’s development and the natural world. With thoughtful management and collective responsibility, it is possible to reduce the frequency and severity of these incidents, protecting Alberta’s rich wildlife heritage and its citizens on the road.

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FAQs for wildlife collision statistics in Alberta

What are the two peak times when the risk of collision due to wildlife is highest?

The two peak times of day are dawn and dusk, when wildlife is most active. The two peak times of year are spring and fall, with the month of November being the worst month for animal-vehicle collisions.

What should you do if you hit an animal in Alberta?

If passengers are injured, call 9-1-1 immediately and advise them that you have been involved in a collision with an animal. Next, contact the nearest Fish and Wildlife office for an injured, conscious animal. To remove a dead animal, call 310-0000.

How can we prevent wildlife collisions?

Preventing wildlife collisions can be achieved by driving at safe speeds, avoiding distractions, being vigilant during dawn and dusk when animals are most active, using high beams at night where possible, and observing wildlife crossing signs. Proactive measures like installing fencing and wildlife crossing structures on roads also help.

What should you watch for while scanning the roadway ditches and median for animals?

While scanning roadway ditches and medians, watch for signs of wildlife, including the reflection of animal eyes, movement, or shapes that indicate the presence of animals. Look out for any potential obstacles that animals might climb over or pass through, and pay attention to posted wildlife crossing signs.

Does my car insurance cover wildlife-vehicle collisions?

Yes, car insurance typically covers wildlife-vehicle collisions as long as you have comprehensive coverage, which insures against damage to your car not caused by a collision with another vehicle.

If you have any questions, contact one of our local branches.