So… what do you do if you collide with an animal?
In a previous post, you learned tips to avoid hitting an animal with your car. Bellingham and Whatcom County are of course full of woods, and deer’s natural habitat is woodlands. There may be a time that unfortunately comes when you run into a deer or a pet, no matter how hard you tried to avoid it. Here are some guidelines on what to do.
Don’t put yourself at risk
It would greatly worsen an already bad situation if you were to injure yourself while trying to help. If you are on a freeway and it’s unsafe to stop and get out of your vehicle, don’t do it. Pull over at the first, safest opportunity, even if that is the nearest exit, and call 911. They will ask you to detail where you are, so pay attention to exit numbers and mileage markers so you can tell them.
If you can safely stop your vehicle and get out to attend to the animal, make sure you are visible. Put on your hazard lights and/or set out emergency flares to alert other drivers to slow down or stop. Do not try to move the animal. It may have internal injuries or broken bones that would get worse if you were to try to move it. Also, frightened animals may bite, kick, or scratch. Call animal control or simply 911 and ask for advice on how to proceed. Make sure to tell them the animal is a "potential traffic hazard" - these are the magic words to make authorities take it seriously and act fast.
Attend to an injured animal
You have a roadside emergency kit, don’t you? It’ll come in handy now. Hopefully it’ll have gloves and a heavy cardboard box. Not many of us routinely carry a cardboard box like this in our cars, but if you’ve got one it'll be a great animal hotel. The person or agency you call for help may ask you to bring an injured animal to a rescue facility, especially if this is someone’s pet. Heavy gloves will protect your hands, and a box can help protect the animal while in your vehicle and make it feel safe. A blanket or towel over the box will help keep the animal warm, and being in the dark will help it feel less frightened.
If you killed an animal while driving, and it’s safe for you to exit your vehicle and attend to it, move the animal to the side of the road. Don’t do this if it’s not safe to do so, meaning if you don’t have emergency flashers or flares, or you’re on a road with a high speed limit or blind cures, it is probably best to refer to the above-mentioned guideline, and simply alert authorities. However, if you decided to move the animal off the roadway, call 911 and dispatch will transfer you to the proper department so you can tell them where to find the animal's body. If you have killed a pet, try to read any information tags and contact the number shown. Make sure to alert the proper authorities so they can give the information to the pet's person, and tell them where they need to go to collect their beloved pet.
I hope that this never happens to you, so please slow down and never drive while distracted or drunk.
For more information: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's page on Living With Deer
Also, did you know it is newly illegal to feed deer and raccoons in Bellingham? City Council passed a ban on intentionally feeding these particular wild animals earlier this month.