Be on lookout for elk in love | AspenTimes.com

Be on lookout for elk in love

Chad Abraham

A buck roams the open space along McLain Flats Road on Tuesday afternoon. Safety officials are warning motorist to be on the lookout for deer and elk, which are increasingly crossing roads this time of year. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

Ah, the holidays: sitting beside a fire with that special someone close by.Elk and deer are also in the romantic spirit, and they are looking for someplace warmer as winter sets in. Getting to courting and mating spots usually involves roads, and police in the valley are warning drivers to watch for the amorous animals.This fall, authorities have been inundated with calls involving vehicles hitting deer and elk on Highway 82, especially in Pitkin County. The sheriff’s office said it received at least one call every night during the first 10 days of November.During the mating season, “more deer and elk will be on the highway at all times of the day, but especially at night,” says a statement from the office. “These animals may also be more driven and less likely to notice traffic.”

Particular trouble spots are the Shale Bluffs and Aspen Village areas on Highway 82, and Brush Creek Road. “However, animals can be found on any road this time of year,” the release says.Capt. Richard Duran of the Colorado State Patrol said animal-vehicle collisions always increase starting about October and continue through the winter.”We get a bunch [of calls] as soon as the weather hits,” he said. “I think a lot of it is limited reaction time.”Andi Johnson, a Carbondale wildlife activist, said the situation appalls her. The Colorado Division of Wildlife and Department of Transportation need to make more of an effort to prevent wildlife from being hit, she said. And the speed limit near the Buffalo Valley Inn outside Glenwood Springs should be reduced to 50 mph, Johnson added.

That area, near Cattle Creek, used to be home to the Sanders Ranch, where elk and deer would bed down for the winter. The land is being developed. Motorists in this area in particular should slow down, Johnson contended.”People drive too fast – they’re not even looking,” she said. The animals “need their habitats. The only thing to do is make drivers more aware.”On that point, Duran agrees with her. It is important that drivers not look beyond their headlights and concentrate instead on what is illuminated, including deer and elk standing in or next to the road, he said.”Sometimes these animals are not running across the road, sometimes they just walk and are in the roadway,” he said. “If the motoring public would be more cognizant of that, maybe adjust their speed and not overdrive their headlights so they can actually see the animals, that would reduce several accidents.”

And there are also the times when deer or elk come out of nowhere to dart across the road. The suddenness of encountering a bull elk, for instance, which can weigh as much as 1,000 pounds, often panics drivers, Duran said.People swerve drastically, overcorrect and roll, or swerve into another car.It’s the lesser of two evils, but Duran said if faced with a choice between hitting an animal or another car, choose the animal.Overall, motorists simply need to slow down and watch for the sexed-up elk and deer. They have a date, and you can’t rush love.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com

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