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11/28/2023 02:04 PM

Increase in Wildlife Brings Increased Hazards

The increase in wildlife around town, from eagles and osprey to bears, deer, and bobcats, has myriad benefits for the local ecosystem and can signal a very healthy environment, according to experts. However, there can be negative issues with this increase in native creatures, namely, deer collisions, in which Guilford ranks as the most likely spot in the entire state for that to occur.

This time of year sees an increase in vehicle-deer collisions across the northeast, according to AAA. In addition to reduced daylight and visibility, the autumn months are whitetail deer mating season, and the species is very active, according to the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

According to the UConn Crash Data Repository, Guilford had the most “deer-related collisions” in the state, with 460 in 2022, more than one a day.

What behaviors can humans modify to reduce the likelihood of a deer collision? The obvious is to slow down when driving and pay more attention; the DEEP also recommends residents understand game trails and where deer and other larger species congregate and cross roadways.

There has also been an increase in bobcat sightings in recent years. Over the last three years, Guilford has consistently ranked in the top two statewide for bobcat sightings, according to data collected by DEEP.

According to DEEP, the bobcat mating season is relatively short, usually February and March. Though not common, bobcats can become more aggressive and bolder during this time, so being aware of your surroundings is the best advice for minimizing contact, but in general these cats are secretive and solitary.

According to the DEEP, there is little in the way of encounter prevention that can be undertaken in regard to bobcats, as these “ghosts of forest” are seldom observed and avoid human interactions. Keeping pets indoors or well-supervised outdoors is recommended; otherwise, these cats tend to avoid humans and pets whenever possible.

In Connecticut, bobcats prey on cottontail rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, white-tailed deer, birds, and, to a much lesser extent, insects and reptiles. Bobcats, on occasion, may also prey on unsupervised domestic animals, including small livestock and poultry, according to DEEP.

Bobcats, foxes, and coyotes can present an issue for livestock, especially fowl, but well-maintained and sturdy protection systems should keep these predators away from livestock. However, these predators are smart and determined, so multiple strategies may be needed to defeat them.

According to DEEP data, “Bobcats rarely cause conflicts with human activities. Infrequently, they kill livestock, especially fowl, and attack domestic cats. Conflicts are addressed on an individual basis and can often be remedied by preventive methods, such as fencing for livestock.”

Coyote mating season also runs along the same months as bobcats, January through March. Coyotes, in general, avoid interactions with humans, but individual cases of attacks on pets and humans do occur. The best method to avoid unwanted contact is to be aware of your surroundings when walking or hiking, keep garbage and trash secure, and properly enclose livestock.

Guilford’s ecosystems make for perfect coyote habitat, and they are often observed both day and evening. Though coyotes are wary of humans, during mating season, they can also become more aggressive and bolder.

Oddly enough, the most statistically significant danger from wildlife for most residents remains deer/vehicle collisions. Recognizing game trails across roads that you travel: if you see a deer crossing the road once, it’s a good bet there is a trail nearby, so caution around previous deer sightings is a crucial prevention method for drivers.

Even deer standing off and along the side of the road can be a danger. Deer can easily become confused and dart out into an oncoming vehicle with little time for a driver to react. Experts recommend a solid car horn blast, even if deer are not actively in the road, to prevent them from a startled jump.

That can also help individual deer associate roadways with loud sounds and possibly prevent a future collision. There are also deer whistles that can be applied to the front of vehicles that emit a whistling sound while driving, projecting sound in front of the car and scaring deer off the roadway.

The DEEP requests that anyone observing a bobcat visit to report it.