When is wildlife most likely to be near the road?

7 minute read Published on Jan 21, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

Close up of a White Tail Deer buck with full antlers crossing a country road

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a road tripper, or someone just curious about the ways of wild creatures, you’ve likely noticed that our furry, feathered, and scaly neighbours often venture close to our bustling highways and byways. Understanding the patterns of wildlife movement is not only fascinating, but it’s also critical for preventing accidents and protecting both animals and human travellers.

From the daily twilight dance to the seasonal migrations that bring animals out of their hidden enclaves, let’s delve into why wildlife may be drawn to roadsides and explore the times you’re most likely to see them.

What time of day are you most likely to see wildlife near the road?

Wild animals can be encountered near roads at any time of day, but the likelihood increases at dawn, dusk, and throughout the night. Understanding these patterns and staying vigilant during these high-risk times can help reduce the number of wildlife collisions and ensure safer journeys for all.

Here’s a more detailed explanation of when you’re most likely to see wildlife near the road:


Many animals are active during the early morning hours. This period offers cooler temperatures and less human activity, making it safer for animals to search for food, water, and mates. Deer, for example, are crepuscular and are most active during these hours, increasing their chances of crossing roads.


Like dawn, the twilight of evening is another high-activity time for wildlife. Animals lying low during the day’s heat will come out to feed and move about as the air cools and the light fades. This is also when nocturnal animals begin their nightly routines.


Nocturnal animals, including some species of predators and many small mammals, are active at night. Roads that traverse forests, wetlands, deserts, and other natural habitats can be frequent crossing points for these creatures. Drivers should be particularly vigilant after dark, as it’s harder to see animals until they are directly in the path of vehicle headlights.

When do collisions with wildlife most often occur?

Collisions with wildlife most often occur during the fall and spring, aligning with periods of wildlife migration and breeding. Warmer weather can also increase the risk of animals as summer road hazards. Moreover, specific times of day are also riskier than others, such as dawn and dusk. Let’s break down when these incidents are most frequent:


This season is particularly dangerous for wildlife collisions due largely to deer mating season, which coincides with the hunting season and crop harvesting. These factors can drive animals out of their usual habitat and across roads. Additionally, as days get shorter, drivers are more likely to be on the road during dusk when animals are more active.


Spring is another critical time, as animals are on the move for breeding or are emerging from hibernation in search of food.

Dawn and dusk

As mentioned, these times of day see increased animal activity due to the low light, cooler temperatures, and increased movement of nocturnal and crepuscular animals. Deer, for example, are most active during these times.


Reduced visibility for drivers combined with the nocturnal habits of many animals makes night time a period of high collision risk. The glare of vehicle headlights can also confuse or freeze animals, making it difficult for them to move away from roads safely.

Bad weather

Inclement weather, such as fog, rain, sleet or snow, can both increase wildlife activity near roads and decrease driver visibility, leading to more accidents.

What if a crash with wildlife is inevitable?

If you encounter a large animal and a collision is unavoidable, do not swerve. This can cause you to lose control of your vehicle, increasing the risk of a more severe accident, such as rolling over or hitting other drivers or a stationary object. Brake firmly and hold onto the steering wheel to maintain control, but release the brakes just before impact to reduce the force of the collision.

Once the collision has occurred and it’s safe to do so, pull over, turn on your hazard lights, and stay away from the animal, as it may be dangerous. Once you are safe, contact the local authorities or the provincial wildlife department immediately. Learn more about what to do when you hit an animal while driving.

Is there a wildlife accident reporting system in Canada?

Yes, Canada does have systems in place to report wildlife accidents. These systems can vary by province and territory but generally include reporting to local authorities like the police, the ministry of transportation, or wildlife conservation agencies. Here’s a more detailed rundown:

In Ontario, collisions with wildlife that result in property damage over a certain amount must be reported to the police. In cases of a dead animal or injured animal, the ministry of natural resources and forestry can be contacted. Ontario also has a specific system for reporting and responding to bear encounters.

British Columbia has a Conservation Officer Service (COS) hotline, which citizens can call to report wildlife-human interactions where public safety may be at risk, which includes road accidents involving wildlife.

In Alberta, the Report A Poacher line can be used not only to report poachers but also to report wildlife accidents. The information gathered can help with wildlife management and conservation efforts as well as improve public safety and develop better strategies for preventing collisions.

Quebec operates a similar service through the ministry of forests, wildlife, and parks, where incidents involving wildlife can be reported, and in cases of wildlife-vehicle collisions, local police or the société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) should be notified, particularly when there’s significant vehicle damage or human injury.

It’s important for drivers to know the specific reporting requirements and contact numbers for the area they’re in. This information is often provided via road signs, driver’s manuals, or government websites. Motorists involved in a collision with wildlife are often advised to contact their local non-emergency police line if there is significant vehicle damage or a threat to public safety. They may also be directed to contact their insurance provider to report the accident for car insurance purposes.

What draws animals to the roadside?

Various factors, including food sources, warmth, and even road salt, can draw animals to roadside areas, creating potential hazards for both the animals and motorists. Here are some of the main attractants:

Food and water sources

Roadsides often have lush vegetation, sometimes more so than the surrounding landscape, due to runoff from the pavement providing extra water. The plants, in turn, attract herbivores, which then attract predators. Roadways can also be a source of food when other animals are killed by vehicles, attracting scavengers such as vultures, ravens, foxes, and coyotes. Furthermore, ditches, culverts, and even large potholes along roads often hold water or run-off, providing a drinking source for animals, especially in dry seasons.


Roads retain heat more effectively than the surrounding land, which can attract cold-blooded animals such as snakes and turtles, particularly in the morning and evening when they are seeking warmth.

Road salt

In colder regions like Canada, road salt is used to melt ice on roadways, and believe it or not, road salt attracts wildlife. Many species, including deer, are drawn to road salt as a source of minerals. Animals may come to lick the salt off the road surface or the accumulated salty snow pushed to the road’s edges.

Artificial light

Insects are drawn to the artificial lights of the roadway at night, which in turn can attract insectivorous animals, including bats, birds, and small mammals.

Habitat disruption

Construction and continuous expansion of road networks can disrupt natural habitats, leading to an increase in the likelihood of animals being near roads. When their territories are divided by roads, an animal crosses these dangerous paths to access the full range of their home areas for food, shelter, and mating.

Road safety tips to help you avoid small wildlife

While large animals like deer or elk often receive the most attention when it comes to unexpected roadside emergencies and collision prevention, small wildlife such as raccoons, porcupines, skunks, foxes, turtles, and birds can also pose risks on the road. Here are some road safety tips to help you avoid these smaller animals:

  • Watch for wildlife warning signs
  • Be vigilant during active times
  • Use high beams at night
  • Scan the roadside while driving for signs of animal presence
  • Drive slowly in marked areas
  • Be extra cautious in wooded and water-rich areas
  • Keep a safe following distance and maintain the speed limit
  • Don’t litter, as food attracts animals to the roadside
  • Don’t swerve
  • Be cautious in both rural and urban areas
  • Research local animal behaviour and patterns

Make sure you’re covered before an accident happens

Understanding when wildlife is most likely near the road can be as crucial as having the right auto insurance coverage whether commuting through rural areas known for high wildlife activity or adventuring off the beaten path where your insurance coverage for off-roading may come into play, being aware of peak wildlife movement times is key to preventing accidents.

From comprehensive to collision car insurance, the right policy protects you from the usual risks of the road and the additional hazards posed by wildlife encounters. BrokerLink is dedicated to helping you navigate the various types of auto insurance to find a policy that ensures peace of mind behind the wheel, no matter where your journey takes you. Keep these considerations in mind, and drive with the confidence that comes from being well-informed and properly insured.

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