From the month of December to January 8th, 2021, the Government of Nova Scotia is accepting public feedback to help create regulations to accompany the Traffic Safety Act. The Travel Safety Act, passed unanimously in 2018, replaces the Motor Vehicle Act in order to provide updated standards of safety on Nova Scotia’s roads and highways. This feedback period is a great opportunity to let the government know that Nova Scotians care about the protection of both drivers and wildlife on Nova Scotia roads, by making it mandatory for drivers to report all collisions with wildlife to a unified reporting system.
As we continue to build roads, and twin highways, we are increasingly encroaching on viable habitat for wildlife. Species are forced to cross roads to find resources to meet their basic needs, making collisions with wildlife more and more frequent. Even in Nova Scotia’s most urban areas such as Halifax and Dartmouth, it is not unusual to see deer in neighborhoods and on roadsides. Vehicle collisions are also a primary cause of mortality for a number of species at risk in Nova Scotia, such as Canada lynx and wood turtles.
The Traffic and Safety Act “Collision and Accident Reporting" Section 213(3) states, if a driver is “in a collision with an unattended vehicle or property on or adjacent to a highway, the driver of the vehicle or other conveyance shall take reasonable steps to locate and notify the owner or person in charge of the unattended vehicle or damaged property as soon as is practicable.”
On provincial land, such as Nova Scotia’s roads and highways, management of wildlife falls under the authority of the province. Section 213 of the Nova Scotia Traffic Safety Act - when applied to wildlife collisions - requires drivers to inform authorities when damage is done to unattended “property”, such as wildlife struck by a vehicle. Only that’s not what’s happening. We want the Act changed to clarify drivers are obligated to report collisions with wildlife.
Transport Canada reported in 2003 that an estimated 4 to 8 collisions between large animals and vehicles occur every hour in Canada. These accidents, occasionally resulting in injury and even loss of human lives, are highly costly at an estimated $200,000,000 annually. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing exactly how many wildlife collisions are occuring in Nova Scotia today, because most collisions are not reported. Across Canada, it’s estimated that as much as 50% of animal-vehicle collisions go unreported; as a result, the collision data that exists is incomplete.
Moreover, it is difficult for drivers to know who to call to report a wildlife collision in Nova Scotia. Currently, reports of wildlife collisions are divided between police, Department of Lands and Forestry, and the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. This division of data collection between agencies results in less complete understanding of where collisions occur. If there were one unified reporting system for the province, where people submit reports of collisions with wildlife, a complete data set on wildlife collisions in Nova Scotia would be more feasible.
Without having complete data on wildlife collisions, it is impossible to know what infrastructure should be improved with mitigation measures such as signage, fencing and crossing structures. With mandatory reporting of wildlife vehicle collisions to a unified reporting system, the province could gradually form a clear picture of how vehicle collisions impact wildlife populations throughout Nova Scotia.
Another benefit of collision reporting is that authorities will have the opportunity to intervene in situations where an animal is suffering by either euthanizing the animal or, in best cases, by bringing it to a wildlife shelter where it can then be rehabilitated and released back into its habitat.
Watch for Wildlife urges you to take action for Nova Scotia wildlife by showing your support for the implementation of mandatory wildlife vehicle collision reporting and a simple, unified reporting system. You have the opportunity to speak up for protection of wildlife within Traffic Safety Act’s “Using the Road” regulations until the feedback period closes on January 8, 2021.
Allison Dean - Watch for Wildlife Coordinator