Driver and landscape-related factors associated with reported wildlife-vehicle collisions in Thunder Bay, Ontario
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The ever-expanding road network in Ontario has created serious implications for wildlife and their movement within the province. This has led to the discovery of many factors that have the potential to increase the risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions related to both deer and driver behaviours. White tailed-deer are the most abundant ungulate species in Ontario, leading them to be involved in a large portion of wildlife-vehicle collisions. Deer-vehicle collisions (DVCs) have been a cause of concern for decades due to human and deer injury or death and cost of vehicle damage. In this study, Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO) data for wildlife-vehicle collisions around Thunder Bay, Ontario from 2011-2021 was spatially analyzed using Quantum Geographic Information System (QGIS). The spatial relationships between DVCs and Ontario land cover class (LCC), nearby streams, and posted speed limit were considered. Tests of association displayed a strong relationship between DVCs and LCC. The development class had the largest positive association, while the disturbed forest class had the largest negative association. Contrary to other findings, streams were rarely associated with DVCs and the posted speed limit analysis showed no significant relationship with the spatial distribution of DVCs. It was concluded that deer behaviour is more influential in the occurrence of DVCs than is driver behaviour, due to the relationships established between DVCs and deer habitat. Although driver behaviour such as speeding or distraction may increase risk, collisions cannot occur where deer are not present. However, mitigation strategies should be targeted at modifying driver behaviour since such strategies are more economically feasible, effective, and accepted by society than are options for posting or controlling deer movements.
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