This picture from Mainroad Group shows the remains of a deer on the Trans Canada Highway about to be picked up.

This picture from Mainroad Group shows the remains of a deer on the Trans Canada Highway about to be picked up.

Crews contend with wildlife carnage on Greater Victoria highways

It is not the prettiest job, but it can also be rewarding.

As manager of Mainroad South Island, Stuart Eaton oversees the crews, who maintain local highways in the Greater Victoria region, including Saanich.

As such, they have to pick up what people colloquially call roadkill: the remains of wild animals and pets, which humans have unintentionally killed with their vehicles, while travelling.

Once crews have picked up remains, they deposit those of cats and dogs in a special storage unit.

Working with organizations like Find Lost and Escaped Dogs (FLED) of Vancouver Island, and the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA), crews then help identify animals based on available descriptions, collars and tags.

Pet owners can be very attached to their animals, said Eaton. “I have had people come down here,” he said. “It’s very emotional. I have even had thank-you cards, saying ‘thanking you for looking after my animal.’”

While that does not happen every day, it marks a break from a job that is not pleasant, but nonetheless provides an important service.

For Eaton and his staff, picking up animal remains is a 24-hour job with seasonal peaks, especially around deer mating season, which lasts from October to December.

Pretty much every day, crews pick up the remains of various creatures, both large and small, while performing road maintenance duties in the Greater Victoria area, he said. “We even had a pot-belly big,” he said.

While it is not clear how many animals die in traffic, estimates for North America peg the annual figure in the millions.

The BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoT) recorded some 93,853 dead animals on provincial highways between 1998 to 2007, a figure that may represent only 25 to 35 per cent of the real number, as official statistics fail to capture animals that die just outside outside highway right-of-ways, animals removed by natural scavengers or predators, animals covered by vegetation, and animals becoming unrecognizable after being run over successive times. Passing motorists may also remove larger primarily deer or moose before crews may pick them up.

About 80 per cent of reported wildlife collisions involve deer, while moose Moose, elk, bears, coyotes and other wildlife make up the remaining 20 per cent, according to the Wildlife Collision Prevention Program, a partnership between the British Columbia Conservation Foundation (BCCF) and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), in response to the increasing number and severity of wildlife vehicle collisions in British Columbia.

Notably, these figures do not capture extremely common collisions with smaller wildlife species. Because they cause less damage to private property or human life, they rarely appear in official statistics.

As for the official statistics, they paint a grim picture. ICBC recorded an average of 10,000 collisions between wildlife and vehicles between 2011 and 2015, resulting in 570 injuries and three fatalities on average each year.

Biologists are also warning that human traffic endangers many rare and endangered species. They include rare turtles, large mammals, and various birds of prey attracted by animal remains, only to be run over themselves.

Local hot spots for animal collisions, according to Eaton, include the Patricia Bay Highway around Sayward Road and Highway 18.

Drivers, according to MoTI, can take several steps to protect themselves. They should be extra careful in the early morning hours or at dusk and during the night, as these are times, when animals are most likely to be on the road.

Just Posted

Sofia Watts, Charlotte Magill and Harriet Knight were among the KELSET Elementary School students releasing salmon fry into Reay Creek May 7. (Ian Bruce/Submitted)
Saanich Peninsula elementary students help restock, clean up local creeks

Salmon fry releases took place at Reay Creek and Tetayut Creek

The City of Victoria hopes to improve its cultural spaces this year and it wants non-profits to help. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Grants up to $125,000 open to Victoria non-profit arts and cultural organizations

Victoria Cultural Infrastructure Grant applications close at the end of May

(Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich health and safety manager named one of Canada’s top 40 women in safety

Canadian Occupational Safety magazine celebrates women leading safety sector in 2021

North Saanich has started the design of a crosswalk at the intersection of Mills and Littlewood roads near Garden Child Care Centre, whose owner Tracey McCullough has been calling for such a sidewalk. As such, she has been echoing a previous appeal by the building’s owner, Heather and Cory Hastings, standing respectively with seven-year-old Jack Hastings and five-year-old Felix Hastings. (Black Press Media File)
North Saanich moves ahead with crosswalk near child care centre

Crosswalk proposed for Littlewood and Mills roads parts of approved active transportation plan

Colwood city council did a last minute adjustment to this year’s budget, dropping the planned property increase to five per cent. Last year they didn’t increase taxes at all. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood agrees to 5% tax increase for 2021, deferring some expenses to next year

Last-minute changes will save the typical Colwood homeowner $56

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Most Read