Newfoundland and Labrador drivers urged to call moose helpline to reduce collisions

The government estimates that the island of Newfoundland is home to approximately 117,000 moose. (Sarah Smellie / The Canadian Press)

Linda Bishop says there’s a reason each of her party’s moose scares – which periodically land in a handful of inboxes owned by journalists in Newfoundland and Labrador – ends so badly. worrying with “Urgent: Yes”.

“It is urgent because it could cause an accident,” she said in a recent interview.

Bishop is the chair of the Save Our People Action Committee, an organization behind a moose helpline created to give local media – primarily radio – a way to alert drivers about moose on the road. It’s a patchwork of efforts by SOPAC and the provincial government to reduce accidents involving moose and vehicles, and the data shows that these efforts can work.

The government estimates that the island of Newfoundland is home to approximately 117,000 moose. This equates to roughly one moose per square kilometer, an area barely larger than an 18-hole golf course. It is the highest density of brains in the country; New Brunswick is far behind with 0.41 moose per square kilometer.

Unsurprisingly, Newfoundland recorded an average of 539 moose-vehicle collisions per year between 2012 and 2020, according to government data. In New Brunswick, the annual average is about 400.

But Newfoundland’s numbers are steadily declining year on year, dropping from 609 crashes in 2012 to 435 in 2019, a difference of about 28%. Overall, the number of motor vehicle accidents has declined by 20 percent over the same period. Collisions involving moose and vehicles accounted for about 6% of all vehicle collisions during this period, with an average of one fatality per year.

In 2020, with a pandemic-related stay-at-home order in place, there were few cars on the road and the total number of road accidents has dropped significantly. Deaths, however, reached record levels that year because drivers were emboldened by empty roads, RCMP Corporal. Matt Christie said in a recent interview.

Bishop struck a moose on October 25, 2004. She was driving to work on a remote two-lane highway near St. John’s when a moose jumped out of the woods and onto the road, its eyes flashing white in its eyes. headlights before the inevitable slamming.

The accident broke her back and ended her nursing career, she said.

When she heard about SOPAC and its efforts to raise awareness about collisions with moose, she knew she had to be a part of it. “I don’t need someone else to suffer like I did – and I do,” she said.

Since 2015, his group has received an annual government grant to pay for the hotline, which costs around $ 2,500 per year and started ten years ago. The grant also pays for radio commercials on moose awareness and for a series of signs along provincial highways advertising the moose hotline. The signs also remind drivers to be on the alert for massive animals.

Calls from anywhere in the Netherlands

Anyone who calls the line talks to someone at the Telelink call center in St. John’s, she said. The operator types the location of the moose in an email to a list of reporters hoping they will issue an alert.

“We get calls from all over the province on our Telelink line,” she said. “So it works.”

So far in 2021, The Canadian Press has received six moose alerts from SOPAC from January through May – and 11 in July alone. August was a slow month, with just four alerts.

“Four and a half miles by White Bay Convenience,” an email said of a moose sighting. “Emergency: Yes. “

The provincial government has launched some of its own initiatives to reduce collisions between moose and vehicles, sometimes at the request of SOPAC.

About ten years ago, authorities spent $ 2 million for a 17-kilometer stretch of fence along a particularly problematic section of highway, and they spent an additional $ 1.5 million for a A roadside “moose detection system” incorporating flashing lights designed to be activated by the presence of an animal. A 2014 government report said the detection system was a failure, noting that it worked almost as often as it worked.

The fence might work, the report said, but more data was needed.

Wayne Barney, a senior provincial government biologist, said other measures, such as roadside brush shaving, have also been effective. Public awareness campaigns are also working, as is increasing moose hunting, he said, noting that SOPAC’s moose helpline is certainly raising awareness.

Barney said he was analyzing data from a recently completed hunting pilot in areas where moose vehicle crashes occur relatively often.

“We are placing … fall hunters in a two-mile area on either side of the road and targeting moose near the road as a way to limit collisions between moose and vehicles,” he said. -he declares.

Barney hit a moose about ten years ago, he said, but he was not injured.

“I didn’t like my van anyway,” he joked.

Read more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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